Newswise — PHILADELPHIA--A new vision research center based in Philadelphia will foster regional, national and global collaborations among a diverse group of exceptional clinicians and researchers working to better diagnose, treat and prevent visual diseases.

Wills Eye Institute and Thomas Jefferson University announce the creation of the Wills Vision Research Center at Jefferson, representing more than 15 scientific disciplines. The multidisciplinary team approach will draw upon extensive knowledge and outstanding clinical expertise in the fields of ophthalmology, oncology, pathology, neurology, and endocrinology, to name a few.

The new center will be directed by Julia A. Haller, M.D., Ophthalmologist-in-Chief, Wills Eye Institute and Professor and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology, Jefferson Medical College, Thomas Jefferson University, and A. Sue Menko, Ph.D., Professor of Pathology, Anatomy, and Cell Biology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University.

“The primary focus of this new initiative is on translational research and studies that will have a major impact on improving vision health,” said Dr. Haller.

Dr. Menko adds: “This new center brings together some of the brightest minds in vision research and clinical care from different, yet complementary, disciplines. Their collaboration, fostered by these two renowned institutions, will only lead to better ways to diagnose and treat vision diseases that affect so many patients today.”

Research projects already in development include: understanding the genetics of congenital abnormalities; preventing neurodegenerative diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and the impact of Parkinson’s on the visual system; new treatments for cancers in the visual system, such as retinoblastoma and uveal melanoma; the connection between low vision and depression, especially in the elderly; and the effects of diabetes on visual health (diabetic retinopathy).

“A major objective at Thomas Jefferson University over the next several years is to increase our portfolio of programmatic research initiatives,” said Leonard Freedman, Ph.D., Vice Dean for Research, Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University. “The depth and breadth of the Wills Eye/Jefferson Vision Center is exactly the kind of multidisciplinary approach we believe represents the future of biomedical research.”

Wills Eye Institute is a global leader in ophthalmology, established in 1832 as the nation’s first hospital specializing in eye care. U.S. News & World Report has consistently ranked Wills Eye as one of America’s top three ophthalmology centers since the survey began in 1990. Wills Eye is a premier training site for all levels of medical education. Its resident and post-graduate training programs are among the most competitive in the country. One of the core strengths of Wills is the close connection between innovative research and advanced patient care. Wills provides the full range of primary and subspecialty eye care for improving and preserving sight, including cataract, cornea, retina, emergency care, glaucoma, neuro-ophthalmology, ocular oncology, oculoplastics, pathology, pediatric ophthalmology and ocular genetics, refractive surgery and retina. Ocular Services include the Wills Laser Correction Center, Low Vision Service, and Diagnostic Center. Its 24/7 Emergency Service is the only one of its kind in the region. Wills Eye also has a network of nine multi-specialty, ambulatory surgery centers throughout the tri-state area. To learn more, please visit

Thomas Jefferson University, the largest freestanding academic medical center in Philadelphia, is composed of Jefferson Medical College, Jefferson College of Graduate Studies, Jefferson School of Population Health, Jefferson School of Health Professions, Jefferson School of Pharmacy, and Jefferson School of Nursing. Jefferson is regarded nationally as one of the best universities offering a range of comprehensive programs for the education of health professions. The colleges and schools enroll more than 3,200 future physicians, scientists and health care professionals. Thomas Jefferson University partners with Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, its education and clinical care affiliate.


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