Wilmer Eye Institute, Bascom Palmer take top honors in Ophthalmology Times' 2022 Best Programs Awards

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Survey of academic chairs and residency directors recognizes centers of excellence in Best Clinical Care, Best Residency, Best Research, and Best Overall Programs.

Wilmer Eye Institute, Bascom Palmer garner top spots in Ophthalmology Times' 2022 Best Programs Awards

Editor’s Note (February 15, 2023): Our survey of institutions was expanded in the 2022 Ophthalmology Times® Best Programs rankings in the interest of diversity. Please see revised Methodology below.

The votes have been tabulated! Here’s how the institutions fared in the 2022 Ophthalmology Times® Best Program Survey.

In 2022, the Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, was voted the #1 Best Overall Program in the country for the second year in a row. Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, Boston, and the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, garnered the second and third spots, respectively.

The top 3 institutions, respectively, in the Best Clinical Care Program are the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, the Wilmer Eye Institute, and Massachusetts Eye and Ear.

The Bascom Palmer Eye Institute; the University of Iowa, Carver College of Medicine, Iowa City; and the Wilmer Eye Institute, placed 1, 2, and 3 in the voting for the Best Residency Program.

The awards for the Best Research Program go to the Wilmer Eye Institute, Massachusetts Eye and Ear, and Duke University, Durham, NC, all of which repeated the previous year’s results.

These rankings were determined on the basis of an electronic poll by Ophthalmology Times® of ophthalmology department chairmen and directors of residency programs at 131 US institutions; 67 responses were received.

Ophthalmology Times® congratulates all of the programs and the program directors for their exceptionalism and their unending commitment to patient care that is recognized nationwide.

Best Overall Programs

Wilmer Eye Institute: the 3-legged chair

Ophthalmology Times Best Overall Awards 2022

Peter McDonnell, MD, the director and the William Holland Wilmer Professor of Ophthalmology of the Wilmer Eye Institute, is focused on the philosophy that in order to excel, excellence in 3 areas, research, teaching, and clinical care, is mandatory.

“Our founder, Dr. Wilmer, believed that the only way the institute that would bear his name could truly achieve excellence would be for it to excel in research as well as teaching and patient care. Only by having all 3 components in 1 program, he believed, would the scientists understand medical problems needed better solutions, would the patients get the most up-to-date care, and would the students receive the best education,” Dr. McDonnell stated.

He continued, “From its onset, Wilmer has emphasized research every bit as much as its clinical enterprise and its residency and fellowship training programs. Now, 97 years later, we think Dr. Wilmer’s insistence on this tripartite mission has been proven to be justified and has allowed us to train generations of leaders, including over 100 department chairs, one dozen Presidents of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and two out of the three directors of the National Eye Institute, among other prestigious positions.”

Dr. McDonnell offered congratulations to all the departments identified by this survey and thank colleagues for recognizing the efforts of the doctors, nurses, scientists, technicians, and staff of the Wilmer Institute who deserve the credit for this recognition by their peers.

Massachusetts Eye and Ear: teamwork

Joan W. Miller, MD, commented on the department’s achievement, “We’re incredibly grateful to be honored as one of the top ophthalmology programs in the country. Our overarching mission as a department is to offer our patients premier clinical care, to perform transformational research that eliminates blinding diseases, and to provide world-class training to the future leaders of our field.” She is the David Glendenning Cogan Professor of Ophthalmology and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School and Chair of Ophthalmology, Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Massachusetts General Hospital, and Ophthalmologist-in-Chief, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston.

Dr. Miller continued, “Our biggest strength as a department continues to be our exceptional team of faculty, trainees, and staff who are dedicated to our patients, our department, and moving our mission forward each and every day.”

“Promoting inclusion, diversity, and equity in our department and institutions is a key guiding principle for Harvard Ophthalmology/Massachusetts Eye and Ear, and directly impacts our success in our mission areas. We believe that the strength of our department is rooted in the uniqueness of our individual members and building a diverse department strengthens our ability to provide world-class care to our patients, while also bolstering our education and research efforts,” she stated.

“We’re committed to a long-term, holistic approach to inclusion, diversity, and equity. Our EYE CAN program is a multi-tiered framework aimed at increasing diversity within the field of ophthalmology. Focused on increasing opportunities to those under-represented in medicine by encouraging people of all ages to explore and learn about the field of ophthalmology, the EYE CAN program includes initiatives directed at school-aged children, medical students selecting a discipline, graduate students considering research careers, and leaders within the specialty of ophthalmology and vision science,” she said.

Best Clinical Care Programs

Bascom Palmer: experience and innovation

Ophthalmology Times Best Clinical Care 2022

Eduardo C. Alfonso, MD, the Kathleen and Stanley J. Glaser Chair in Ophthalmology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and the Director of the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, expressed gratitude for the recognition afforded the Clinical Care Program.

"We are honored to be recognized by our peers for providing excellent clinical care. Bascom Palmer's 6 decades of experience and innovation both in clinical care and scientific research have translated into exceptional patient care,” he said.

Taking a birds-eye view of the institute, Dr. Alfonso continued, “Looking back over the past few years, I am most proud of our team's resiliency and ability to adapt to changing conditions. The pandemic allowed us to critically examine our processes and develop new ideas, instruments, and protocols that have served our patients well. Bascom Palmer has always stayed on the leading edge of clinical care and our faculty members are engaged in the most current developments in the field. This attention to innovation allows us to provide the latest and most appropriate treatments to all of our patients with care and compassion. Our goal is to deliver the best possible vision care to patients of all ages throughout our diverse South Florida community and around the world."

Wilmer Eye: junction of science and patient care

Dr. McDonnell emphasized the importance of the melding of science and the art of medicine.

“The reason that Dr. Wilmer, our founder, placed such an emphasis on research when he started the institute was that he believed the discipline of biomedical science would make us better clinicians. So today, virtually without exception, our doctors are involved in research, whether that be in a laboratory, clinic or operating room, and we believe that drives us to constantly innovate and improve the care we provide based upon the most current evidence. Many physicians and many medical schools consider clinical practice and research to be two different things; we consider them to be inseparable, and we strive to have Wilmer be the place where science and patient care converge,” he explained.

Massachusetts Eye and Ear: world-class care

Harvard Ophthalmology/Massachusetts Eye and Ear provides exceptional clinical care with enhanced patient access to world-class treatments and clinical innovations. The most important clinical advances in the last 2 decades have been developed in our department, from optical coherence tomography and photodynamic therapy to anti-vascular endothelial growth factor treatments and the Boston Keratoprosthesis, Dr. Miller explained.

She pointed out that these advances have revolutionized patient care and have been recognized throughout Ophthalmology. Dr. Claes H. Dohlman, received the 2022 António Champalimaud Vision Award for his pioneering contributions to the field. Considered the “Nobel Prize of Vision,” the Champalimaud Vision Award is the highest distinction bestowed in ophthalmology and vision science. Harvard Ophthalmology is the only ophthalmology department to win this prestigious award multiple times and boasts the most Champalimaud Laureates to date.

Taking a look at Massachusetts Eye and Ear’s bright future, Dr. Miller sees promising advances including gene editing, regenerative medicine, telemedicine, and other advances in patient care delivery. She enumerated some of Massachusetts Eye and Ear’s most recent clinical innovations:

Acceleration of research in gene-based medicine using clinical data and gene-editing techniques to work towards a personalized medicine model of care. This research provides clinicians with the latest advances in improving vision for patients with inherited blindness.

Groundbreaking research in cell and biologic therapies for blinding eye diseases that will reduce the need for transplants and surgeries.

Increasing home-based care and assessments, including functional testing and digital health diagnostic apps. Emerging technologies in telemedicine and Home OCT are paving the way for patients to consult with their physicians and be evaluated virtually. These advances can increase access to care and continuity of care, potentially leading to better patient outcomes.

“Since 2010, Massachusetts Eye and Ear has led the development and implementation of outcomes measures for Ophthalmology. We have consistently reported on these measures in our Quality and Outcomes annual report to promote transparency in Ophthalmology and hold ourselves accountable to providing the best patient care. We aim to establish universal standards that may be adopted and reported by ophthalmologists across the country, by defining and sharing clinical outcomes across all subspecialty areas,” she said.

Best Residency Programs

Bascom Palmer: The power of the residency program

Ophthalmology Times Best Residency 2022

Chrisfouad R. Alabiad, MD, Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology and Residency Program Director at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, who recently took over the reins of the Residency Program, commented on its success.

"We are truly humbled that our colleagues hold our training program in such high regard. It is a testament to our faculty's dedication to teaching and to our residents' commitment to learning and caring for patients from all walks of life. In addition, we currently have great opportunities to blend virtual and digital learning tools with clinical, laboratory, and classroom instruction. We are always ready to adapt our residency training to new conditions since we never know what the future will bring. As we look ahead, Bascom Palmer will continue to build on our program's strong foundation to provide the highest quality and relevant training to today's residents," he said.

Steven J. Gedde, MD, John G. Clarkson Chair in Ophthalmology, Vice Chair for Education, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, and former director of the residency program, said, "The Bascom Palmer Eye Institute is deeply committed to fulfilling its educational mission. We recognize that training the next generation of ophthalmologists is a powerful way to positively impact the field of ophthalmology. Our many educational programs disseminate medical knowledge around the world and help elevate the quality of care delivered to patients. The success of our residency program is the result of a collaborative effort among a talented faculty who are deeply committed to teaching the next generation of ophthalmologists, as well as Bascom Palmer's leadership team, which has provided unwavering support for medical education."

Best Research Programs

Wilmer Eye: interdisciplinary collaboration

Ophthalmology Times Best Research 2022

In commenting on the survey results, Laura Ensign, MD, vice chair for research at the Wilmer Eye Institute, said, “The research program here at Wilmer is so special because of the breadth and diversity of expertise in the faculty, staff, and trainees. The interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches are what is needed to take on complex problems and to truly innovate. As Dr. McDonnell points out, the success of Wilmer’s research program is also integrated with the excellence of the clinical enterprise and training programs. As an engineer, the clinical perspective and identification of unmet needs are paramount to guiding my research program.”

Massachusetts Eye and Ear: expanding knowledge and treatment targets

“At Harvard Ophthalmology/Massachusetts Eye and Ear, our research is focused on eliminating blinding diseases and disorders. Tackling these conditions with a multifaceted, multidisciplinary approach has been the mainstay of our past success in translational medicine,” according to Dr. Miller.

She pointed out the effect that innovation is having on patient care: “Today, scientific collaboration and information—leveraged from modern genetics and genomics—are accelerating our understanding of blinding diseases and revealing new targets for therapy. Capitalizing on this momentum, the department’s research strategy focuses on areas of greatest unmet medical need, including retinal degenerations, macular degeneration, and diabetic eye disease, as well as optic neuropathies, particularly glaucoma. We’re currently pursuing a range of promising research areas, including artificial intelligence, big data, genetics and gene-based therapy, imaging, and other diagnostic technologies.”

Methodology

Since the first Ophthalmology Times® Best Programs awards in 1996, the publication’s rankings have served as an informal poll for recognizing centers of excellence in ophthalmology, with peers recognizing peers and residents casually looking to it when considering schools—and last but not least, the human brain has an insatiable appetite for a simple and engaging list.

The Ophthalmology Times® Best Programs rankings are compiled from a poll of ophthalmology department chairmen and directors of residency programs across the United States with 2 votes from each institution.

Respondents are asked to rank ophthalmology programs from 1 to 10 (with 1 being the number one choice, etc.) in three categories: best research program, best clinical (patient care) program, and best residency (teaching) program. The total number of responses that programs receive across all three categories are then tallied to determine the overall best program.

Up until the 2022 Ophthalmology Times® Best Programs rankings, the original list of 35 departments/divisions of ophthalmology that participants were asked to select from had remained unchanged.

Programs have evolved over time along with ophthalmology. In the interest of diversity, the 2022 Ophthalmology Times® Best Programs was expanded to ~130 institutions who are among the Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology (AUPU) membership that includes medical schools accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) in the United States and ophthalmology residency training programs accredited by the ACGME in other teaching institutions in the United States, as noted by the AUPO website.

The names of the departments/divisions of ophthalmology of the respective universities were added along with an option to select “other” in this recent Ophthalmology Times® Best Program poll.

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