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    Dr. Haller new leader at Wills Eye, Jefferson

    She hopes to expand translational research programs, fundraising efforts


    Dr. Haller
    Philadelphia—She's been compared with Tom Clancy's fictional Cathy Ryan, a Wilmer Eye Institute ophthalmologist who becomes first lady and wins the Lasker Prize.

    Although Julia A. Haller, MD, is not married to the president and still aspires to the most coveted award in medical science, she's become a "first lady" of another sort as the first woman leader of the Department of Ophthalmology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University and ophthalmologist-in-chief at Wills Eye, Philadelphia.

    Dr. Haller, who formerly held titles including the Robert Bond Welch, MD, Professor of Ophthalmology, the Katharine Graham Professor of Ophthalmology, and director of the retina fellowship program at the Wilmer Eye Institute of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, was appointed to succeed William S. Tasman, MD, at Wills Eye and Jefferson. He is moving into the role of professor and chairman emeritus at Jefferson after 23 years in his former capacities (See "Dr. Tasman to step down at Wills Eye, Jefferson," Ophthalmology Times, March 1, 2007).

    Dr. Tasman
    Dr. Haller took on the position in mid-November after 27 years at the Wilmer Eye Institute, and she said she only could have left the revered Johns Hopkins for an institution as well regarded as Wills Eye. The Wilmer Eye Institute has held the top spot as the best overall program on the Ophthalmology Times' annual best programs survey for 12 years, and Wills Eye often has ranked in the top five.

    First female? No big deal

    Although some have noted that Dr. Haller is the first female to hold the positions at Wills Eye and Jefferson, she said that she was pleased that it never came up during her interview process. It is a distinction she shrugged off as unimportant.

    "People really haven't made a big deal about it," she said.

    Being the first woman in positions previously held by men is nothing new to Dr. Haller. She was the first student from her Baltimore girls' school to attend Princeton University; she was a freshman there the first year women were admitted to the college, and she played on the university's first women's lacrosse team. She also was the first female teacher at the Wilmer Eye Institute.

    "I'm more [interested] in what the person does than whether it's a woman or man," Dr. Haller said. "But I do see medical students who are energized by it."

    After graduating from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, she completed a residency at the Wilmer Eye Institute. She joined the institute's faculty after completing a 1-year fellowship under Frederick A. Jakobiec, MD, at Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital in New York City.

    Dr. McDonnell
    Although Peter J. McDonnell III, MD, chairman of ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute, said he was sorry to see Dr. Haller leave that institution, he is pleased that she takes her Wilmer Eye Institute training with her.

    "We're obviously delighted and thrilled for her to be selected for this challenging and exciting position," he said. "We're proud that she's the 97th department chairperson to train at the Wilmer Eye Institute and part of a long legacy of Wilmer Eye Institute-trained leaders in ophthalmology, not only in the United States but throughout the world."

    Special places

    With such a history at the Wilmer Eye Institute, Dr. Haller confessed, it was difficult to move on.


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