Dome home
     A publication for the Johns Hopkins Medicine Family
Search Dome

Volume 60
Number 8
October 2009



The Wilmer Way
If you want to head your own department, Hopkins’ eye institute is the place to hail from.

blank Wilmer Way
Peter McDonnell has personally witnessed former trainees’ ascent to chairmanships.

On the eve of its 85th anniversary, the Wilmer Eye Institute has attained a remarkable milestone: 100 eye departments, institutes or foundations around the world have had Hopkins-affiliated ophthalmologists—either students, residents, fellows or faculty—go on to head them since Wilmer was founded in 1925. “We’ve averaged slightly more than one a year since we started,” says Wilmer Director Peter McDonnell (School of Medicine 1982; house staff, 1982-87).

Indeed, the departure of promising trainees, fellows and faculty to other institutions has been so constant an aspect of Wilmer’s history that it is seen as part of its mission, says McDonnell.

“We have what we think is a stellar pipeline of young faculty, and it’s one of the key duties of people in leadership like me to develop those individuals and help them become fabulously successful.”

The latest carriers of the Wilmer banner are Pedro Lopez (house staff, 1987–90), and Roy Chuck Jr., a renowned stem cell and dry eye researcher who had been Wilmer’s director of refractive surgery. Lopez will become the founding chair of the new ophthalmology department at Florida International University in Miami. On July 1, Chuck became head of ophthalmology and visual sciences at Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

Although Chuck didn’t train at Wilmer—the largest department of ophthalmology in the country, with 130 faculty members—he was instructed in “the Wilmer Way” by Wilmer trainee Bernie Becker, the founder of Washington University’s ophthalmology department. He also was a fellow and faculty member of McDonnell’s when McDonnell was head of ophthalmology at the University of California at Irvine from 1999 until he returned to Wilmer in 2003.

McDonnell alone has had five fellows become heads of their own departments, including ones in Brazil, Germany and South Korea. Other Wilmer-trained ophthalmologists have headed or are in charge now of ophthalmology programs in Australia, Canada, China, England, Iran, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia. Indeed, Selwa Al-Hazza (fellow, 1990–93), an adjunct associate professor at Wilmer, currently heads ophthalmology at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia—an impressive achievement in a nation where women still aren’t allowed to drive automobiles.

Some Wilmer alums like McDonnell actually have helmed more than one ophthalmology department, such as his predecessor at Wilmer, Morton Goldberg (house staff, 1963–67), who headed ophthalmology at the University of Illinois in Chicago from 1970 to 1989 before returning to head Wilmer from 1989 to 2003.

At least 12 Wilmer alums have founded the departments or institutes they led—including departments at Yale, the University of Southern California and the University of Miami’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, which now vies regularly with Wilmer for ranking as the country’s top eye institute.

“We would rather develop stellar individuals, knowing that some will be stolen away every so often, than to be a department full of the kind of people that nobody’s trying to steal away,” says McDonnell.

–Neil A. Grauer



Johns Hopkins Medicine

About Dome | Archive
© 2009 The Johns Hopkins University
and Johns Hopkins Health System