January 11, 2010-  The Wilmer Eye Institute of Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore (USA) announced today that it will collaborate in research, education and patient care with the King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia).

 Peter McDonnell
Peter J. McDonnell

“We at the Wilmer Institute have long been interested in the study and cure of blinding eye diseases around the world, and the King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital is certainly one of the most impressive eye hospitals outside of the United States,” says Dr. Peter J. McDonnell, William Holland Wilmer Professor of Ophthalmology and the director of the Wilmer Institute. “Working in close collaboration with the excellent experts at the King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital, and combining the expertise of our two institutions, will allow for more rapid evaluation of potential new therapies than would be possible with either hospital working alone”.


A major focus of the affiliation will be the training of the next generation of leaders in ophthalmology in both countries and beyond. These are the scientists who will be developing new procedures and new treatments for eye diseases that currently are not curable. Wilmer Institute already has trained more than one hundred chairpersons in departments of ophthalmology in dozens of countries.

“We are delighted to enter into this affiliation with the Wilmer Institute,” says Dr. Abdul Elah Al-Towerki, executive director of the King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital. “We chose the Wilmer Institute because of its commitment to excellence and track record of advancing the field of ophthalmology. Both of our institutions have great strengths, and working closely together in this affiliation will allow us to accomplish more, in a shorter period of time, than we could working alone. This affiliation is supported at the highest levels within the government of Saudi Arabia”.

Several Wilmer faculty members will work at the hospital for extended periods — treating patients, teaching and conducting research. With financial support  from the Saudi Government, joint research activities will focus on developing treatments for blinding eye diseases, such as diabetic eye disease, that afflict patients living in both countries and around the world. In addition, a new endowed professorship at Johns Hopkins will be established to support the work of Hopkins’ faculty.


The Wilmer Institute is one of the largest medical institutes devoted to treatment and cure of eye diseases in the United States, with more than 130 full-time faculty members, and is recognized as one of the premier research, training and patient-care facilities in the world.

The King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital (KKESH) is the largest eye hospital in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and is one of the top-ranked medical facilities in the Middle East.

Dr. Edward Miller, dean of the medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine, points out that one of Johns Hopkins Medicine’s chief missions is to work with organizations around the world to advance medicine. “We at Johns Hopkins are pleased by this affiliation and expect it will lead to successful collaborations in teaching, research and improving the care of patients with eye diseases”.

* Images are available at:  http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/Press_releases/2010/images/WimerImages.html

–JHM –

About Johns Hopkins Medicine
A more than $5 billion enterprise, Johns Hopkins Medicine unites physicians and scientists of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine with the organizations, health professionals and facilities of Johns Hopkins Health System. The mission of Johns Hopkins Medicine is to improve the health of the community and the world by setting the standard of excellence in medical education, research and clinical care. Diverse and inclusive, Johns Hopkins Medicine educates medical students, scientists, health care professionals and the public; conducts biomedical research; and provides patient-centered medicine to prevent, diagnose and treat human illness. Johns Hopkins Medicine has provided international leadership in the education of physicians and medical scientists in biomedical research and in the application of medical knowledge to sustain health since The Johns Hopkins Hospital opened in 1889. The Johns Hopkins Health System includes four acute-care hospitals — The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Howard County General Hospital, and Suburban Hospital — and other provider and managed-care organizations, which together provide an integrated health care delivery system. For more information about Johns Hopkins Medicine, please visit:

About Wilmer Eye Institute
Founded in 1925, the Wilmer Eye Institute was the nation's first university eye clinic to combine patient care, research and teaching under one roof. Wilmer has grown from one full-time faculty member at one site in East Baltimore to 122 full-time faculty members at eight locations throughout Maryland, the largest faculty of any ophthalmology department in the United States, a total staff of 600, and an annual budget of over $80 million. No other ophthalmologic institution in the world has Wilmer's track record and long tradition of wide-ranging achievements:

• In 2009, the number of patient visits to Wilmer will exceed 200,000, with patients coming to the Institute from all 50 states and 73 foreign nations.
• Wilmer faculty received more National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants than any other ophthalmology institution in the country.
• Wilmer has the most competitive residency program in the country.

Wilmer is now positioned at an extraordinary juncture in its long history, where discovery and opportunity have intersected to advance the understanding and treatment of devastating eye diseases. The new Robert H. and Clarice Smith Building and Maurice Bendann Surgical Pavilion, will be the proving grounds of a new era in ophthalmology. Opened in June 2009, this 200,000-square-foot building is actually two buildings in one, offering state-of-the-art facilities for both research and clinical practice. It advances our long tradition of bringing the newest understanding and the latest discoveries to help deliver the best and most advanced care possible.  For more information about Wilmer Eye Institute, please visit: www.hopkinsmedicine.org/wilmer

About King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital
The King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital (KKESH), a 250-bed hospital inaugurated in 1983, is the largest ophthalmic tertiary referral center in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

KKESH’s  mission is to serve as the center of excellence for tertiary eye care, educate and train professionals, conduct research, enhance community awareness of ophthalmic diseases and their causes through health education, and develop outreach programs.

KKESH prides itself in offering the highest standards of ophthalmic patient care to the people of Saudi Arabia. This strong commitment to meet the highest international standards is embodied in the fact that we have been certified compliant to the JCAHO from 1983 to 2000, and then accredited by JCIA through present day. To that end, the hospital has the unwavering support of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, through his government in general, and the Ministry of Health in particular.

KKESH has played a major role in starting, and developing the first residency program in ophthalmology in the country. It has provided training for all the Saudi ophthalmologists who graduated from this program (an average of 11 ophthalmologists per year) every year since 1988. Moreover, KKESH’s subspecialty fellowship, which started in 1995, has graduated most of the Saudi ophthalmic subspecialists who are presently delivering care to the Saudi population. These activities have changed the landscape of eye care delivery in the country. 

Large resources are allocated to support the medical staff to carry out research projects that impact diagnosis,and management of eye disorders indigenous to the region in general and Saudi Arabia in particular. Large field surveys conducted by KKESH staff have resulted in better understanding of the causes of visual loss in the country, which led to setting up strategic planning according to the findings. This has resulted, for example, in the eradication of trachoma as an endemic disease in Saudi Arabia. Strong emphasis on research continues on.

Media Contact: Natalia Bolotina
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