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Kathryn Colby to Chair Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science

October 27, 2015

October 27, 2015

After a national search, distinguished corneal surgeon, educator and researcher Kathryn Colby, MD, PhD, has been selected to chair the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science (OVS) at the University of Chicago Medicine.

Colby, a highly respected surgeon with expertise in a wide variety of corneal diseases, neoplastic diseases of the surface of the eye, and the implantation of artificial corneas, assumed her new role in August 2015. Colby previously served as an associate professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, surgeon and president of the medical and the eye staffs at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI), and Director of the Pediatric Cornea Service at Boston Children's Hospital.

"Kathryn Colby brings a great deal of clinical and research experience -- as well as a reputation as an excellent teacher -- to our eye care and vision research program," said Kenneth Polonsky, MD, Dean and Executive Vice president for Medical Affairs at the University of Chicago. "Our patients, training programs and clinical research will benefit from the knowledge and experience she brings. This will strengthen our ophthalmology residency and fellowship programs and expand our ability to serve local and regional communities."

Colby, 56, has a longstanding interest in Fuchs' corneal dystrophy, the most common cause for corneal transplantation in the U.S. Her studies in this area have run the gamut from basic science investigations into the underlying disease mechanisms, to clinical trials and novel surgical treatments to improve patient outcomes. In addition, she is an internationally renowned expert in the diagnosis and management of ocular surface tumors, including conjunctival melanoma.

During her tenure in Boston she spearheaded efforts to improve surgical techniques for a variety of implanted eye devices, including the Boston keratoprosthesis (artificial cornea) and the implantable miniature telescope, the only FDA-approved device to improve vision for patients with advanced macular degeneration. Her work with experimental technologies and her roles in MEEI's human studies committee -- including seven years as committee chair -- led to a deep and lasting interest in complex ethical issues in clinical innovation for eye diseases.

Colby is an active teacher, who has trained hundreds of medical students, ophthalmology residents, clinical cornea and pediatric ophthalmology fellows, many of whom currently hold leadership positions within ophthalmology. Surgeons from around the world have visited her program to learn about artificial corneas. She has won multiple awards in her field, including a senior achievement award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology and a mentorship award from Women in Ophthalmology. Colby sits on the editorial board of two specialty journals, Cornea and Eye and Contact Lens.

As chair of the newly re-established Department of OVS, which was founded in 1927 and reorganized into the Department of Surgery in 2008, Colby will expand the program and recruit additional faculty in a variety of subspecialties. This will enhance existing strengths in retinal drug and device investigation and advance newer programs in glaucoma and corneal surgery. Research collaborations between department faculty and the growing neuroscience community on campus should speed that process and open new areas of inquiry.

Colby graduated with highest honors from the University of Maryland medical school and holds a PhD in neurobiology from Brown University. She completed her residency in ophthalmology and a fellowship in cornea, external disease and refractive surgery at MEEI, where she was named chief resident. She joined the faculty of Harvard Medical School in 1996, where she spent the last two decades, ascending to the rank of associate professor of ophthalmology. Colby was the founding director of the pediatric cornea service at Boston Children's Hospital. She served as the president of the eye and medical staffs at MEEI and on the Board of Directors of the New England Ophthalmological Society. She remains an active member of the Board of Directors of the Cornea Society.

Serving as chair of OVS will be a "remarkable opportunity to expand resources, establish new programs and take advantage of the wide-ranging clinical and research strengths of the University of Chicago and its history of bringing together diverse specialists to focus on novel and significant problems," said Colby. "I look forward to working closely with the faculty and staff, recruiting new people and programs, and building creative collaborations."

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