Dr. Chao was born and raised in Santa Monica, California. She graduated with distinction from Stanford University and was awarded the Janet M. Glasgow Memorial Achievement Citation. She earned her MD and PhD at the Yale University School of Medicine, earning her PhD in Neuroscience with a prominent neuroscientist, Eric Nestler, MD, PhD. Upon completion of her internship at Stanford, she continued her residency and vitreoretinal fellowship at the Doheny Eye Institute/USC. During her residency and fellowship, she was awarded the Fight for Sight Postdoctoral Fellowship, the Knights Templar Eye Foundation Research Grant, and the Heed Foundation Fellowship. During that time, she also initiated a research fellowship at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in the laboratory of Marianne Bronner PhD, a recognized world expert in developmental/stem cell biology. Dr. Chao has been on the faculty at UW since 2009.

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Undergraduate Education: BS, Biological Sciences, Stanford University, 1996
Medical School: MD, Ophthalmology, Yale University, 2003
Post Graduate Education: PhD, Neuroscience, Yale University, 2002
Internship: Internal Medicine, Stanford University, 2004
Residency: Ophthalmology, University of Southern California, 2007
Fellowship: Vitreoretinal Surgery, University of Southern California, 2009
Board Certification: American Board of Ophthalmology, 2008, National Board of Medical Examiners, 2003
Memberships: American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), Washington Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons (WAEPS), Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), Washington State Medical Association (WSMA)
Sub Specialty Societies: American Society of Retina Specialists (ASRS)

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Academic Interests

Clinical Interests

Dr. Chao’s clinical interests include age-related macular degeneration, hereditary retinal degenerations (e.g. retinitis pigmentosa), retinal detachments and tears, diabetic retinopathy, macular holes, puckers and edema, myopic macular degeneration, central serous retinopathy, endophthalmitis, and retinal vascular occlusive diseases.

Research Focus

Dr. Chao’s research group studies inherited retinal degenerations and examines potential treatment modalities. Specific projects include the generation of stem cells from persons with inherited retinal degenerations (called induced pluripotent stem cells or IPSCs), generating retinal cells from these IPSCs, and studying the “diseased” retinal cells in culture.  Ultimately, the group is focused on discovering new drug therapeutics that could benefit those affected by inherited retinal degenerations. 

Awards & Honors     

2013 Best Doctors in America
2008 Heed Ophthalmic Foundation Fellow
2003 Janet M. Glasgow Memorial Achievement Citation
2003 Doctor of Medicine, cum laude (Yale University)
1996 Stanford University, Graduation with Distinction


Chao JR, Bronner-Fraser M, Lwigale P. (2013). Human Fetal Keratocytes have Multipotent Characteristics in the Developing Avian Embryo. Stem Cells and Development, In Press.

Gupta D and Chao JR (2012). Genetics of AMD.  Age-Related Macular Degeneration, Third Edition (ed. Lim, JI).  London, UK: Informa Healthcare.

Scartozzi R, Chao JR, Walsh AC, Eliott D (2009).  Bilateral Improvement of Persistent Diffuse Diabetic Macular Edema after Unilateral Intravitreal Bevacizumab (Avastin) Injection.  Eye 23(5):1229.

Chao JR, Lai M-Y, Azen SP, Klein R and Varma R (2007). Retinopathy in Persons without Diabetes:  The Los Angeles Latino Eye Study.  Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science 48(9): 4019-4025.

Chao JR, Khurana RN, Fawzi AA, Reddy HS, and Rao NA (2006). Syphilis: Re-emergence of an Old Adversary.  Ophthalmology 113(11): 2074-9.

Primary Clinical Office

Eye Institute at Harborview

Harborview Medical Center
908 Jefferson St., 7th Floor
Seattle, WA
Clinic Phone: 206-744-2020
Clinic Fax: 206-897-4320

Mailing Address:
Box 359608
325 Ninth Ave.
Seattle, WA 98104
Academic Phone: 206-543-7250

Additional Offices

Vision Science
Chao Lab

South Lake Union

Mailing Address:
University of Washington
Chao Lab, E210
750 Republican St.
Seattle, WA 98109-8058

Main Reception
Tel: 206-897-1327
Lab Phone: 206-685-5198
Fax: 206-685-9315



Medical and Surgical Retina
Retinal Degenerative Diseases


English, Chinese (Mandarin)


Chao Lab