Jennifer Chao, MD, PhD

Professor, Gordon and Joan Bergy Professor, Vice Chair, Research


Undergraduate Education: BS, Biological Sciences, Stanford University, 1996
Medical School: MD, Ophthalmology, Yale University, 2003
Post Graduate Education: Ph.D., 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)


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 Ph.D. at the Yale University School of Medicine, earning her Ph.D. in Neuroscience with a prominent neuroscientist, Eric Nestler, MD, Ph.D.  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, Ph.D., a recognized world expert in developmental/stem cell biology.  Dr. Chao has been on the faculty at UW since 2009.

Since joining the faculty, Dr. Chao has published papers and presented work at national meetings.  She has also served as a peer-reviewer for several journals, including Ophthalmology and Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.  When not involved in patient care, Dr. Chao has an active laboratory dedicated to the study of retinal degenerative disorders. 

Dr. Chao offers both medical and surgical treatments for vitreoretinal diseases.  She has a particular interest in patients with retinal degeneration. She enjoys working with residents and fellows in the clinic, in the operating room, and in her lab.  She also enjoys speaking with community groups and sharing her knowledge of current advances in eye disease treatment.  Undergraduates also participate in research in Dr. Chao’s lab.

She is dedicated to bringing the highest quality of care to her patients by offering the most up-to-date diagnostic and treatment options to her patients.  She enjoys partnering with her patients in their care, listening to them, and keeping them informed of the latest in current research regarding challenging retinal diseases.

In her spare time, Dr. Chao enjoys spending time with her family, hiking, travelling and playing the violin.

Primary office

Eye Institute at Harborview

Location:  Harborview Medical Center
908 Jefferson St., 7th Floor Seattle, WA 98104
Clinic Phone: 206-744-2020 Clinic Fax: 206-520-9310
Mailing Address: Box 359608 325 Ninth Ave. Seattle, WA 98104
Academic Phone: 206-543-7250

Patient Care Philosophy

“My goal is to provide the most advanced and compassionate care to each of my patients with the goal of improving their quality of life.”

Awards and honors

2020 Alcon Research Institute Senior Investigator Award

2020 Latham Vision Research Innovation Award

2019 RPB Sybil B. Harrington Physician-Scientist Award

2017 Latham Vision Research Innovation Award

2015 Alcon Research Institute Young Investigator Award

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

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 examine 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 degeneration. 


Vision Science Chao Lab

Location:  South Lake Union

Mailing Address: 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


    No publications are available at this time.

UW Department of Ophthalmology

908 Jefferson St.. Seattle, WA 98104 (academic offices)
Harborview Medical Center (mailing address)
Box 359608, 325 Ninth Avenue Seattle, WA 98104
Phone: 206.543.7250
Fax: 206.685.7055


For Patients

Graduate Medical Education