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    Bascom Palmer takes top honors for 3rd year


    Increasing research capabilities

    Figure 1
    With 76 full-time clinical and research faculty members, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute is one of this country's largest ophthalmology programs. It opens its doors for more than 237,600 clinical visits and performs more than 12,300 procedures each year.

    Figure 2
    More than 300,000 square feet of space is devoted to clinical care and research, and Dr. Alfonso hopes to double that with a future translational research center on another 6-acre site—and one day claim the top spot on the survey for research. Although the department's mission always has centered on patient care, he said its $30 million research budget allows faculty to perform a great deal of important research in such areas as genomics and gene transfers.

    He noted two researchers who recently joined the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute faculty—neuro-ophthalmology specialist John R. Guy, MD, who Dr. Alfonso said is the only scientist working on gene transfer to treat Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy, and Jeffrey L. Goldberg, MD, PhD, who is investigating the use of adult stem cells to regenerate diseased retinas.

    Dr. McDonnell
    "We're looking forward to opening more research space in our research building so we can recruit more scientists," Dr. Alfonso said. "We have good collaboration with scientists around the world, but it's much faster when they're all under one roof."

    For the third year, Wilmer Eye Institute placed second in the "best overall" category, after spending 12 years at the top. Peter J. McDonnell, MD, director and William Holland Wilmer Professor of Ophthalmology at the institute, said his department has worked hard to make improvements in every area, by adding faculty, decreasing the time patients have to wait for appointments, and striving to make significant research contributions.

    The department added 16 new full-time faculty members this year, and all but two of those are seeing patients.

    "A medium-size ophthalmology department in our country is eight full-time faculty [members]," said Dr. McDonnell, who also is chief medical editor of Ophthalmology Times. "We've added essentially the equivalent of two full departments to Wilmer over the past year."

    While expressing his desire to be the best in all areas of the survey, Dr. McDonnell offered his congratulations to Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and all the departments ranked in the survey.

    "We also want those other departments to know we intend to make them work hard to be ranked ahead of us," he added with a laugh.

    Dr. Haller
    Similarly, Julia A. Haller, MD, ophthalmologist-in-chief of the Wills Eye Institute, and professor and chairwoman, Department of Ophthalmology, Thomas Jefferson University, said she believes her institution deserves top billing for having what she says is the largest clinical practice in the country, the first ophthalmology residency in the country, and a thriving research program.

    "We think we're No. 1, but it's a tremendous honor to be in the top group," she said. "It accurately reflects the tremendous commitment of the faculty and staff in residency training, clinical care, and research."


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