Thomas V. Johnson III, M.D., Ph.D. is a glaucoma specialist and the Shelley and Allan Holt Rising Professor of Ophthalmology at Wilmer Eye Institute. He received his BA (summa cum laude) in Biological Sciences from Northwestern University in 2005. As a Gates-Cambridge Scholar and an NIH-OxCam Scholar, he earned his PhD in Clinical Neuroscience from the University of Cambridge (UK) in 2010. He completed his medical training (AOA) at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 2014 and served as an intern on the Johns Hopkins Osler Medical Service prior to completing his ophthalmology residency and glaucoma fellowship at the Wilmer Eye Institute.
His research interests are focused on understanding the pathophysiology of retinal and optic nerve neurodegenerative disorders, and on the development of neuroprotective and neuroregenerative therapies for these conditions. His doctoral thesis work evaluated intraocular stem and progenitor cell transplantation as a possible neuroprotective therapy for glaucoma. His research contributions have been recognized with a World Glaucoma Association Award nomination, the National Eye Institute’s Scientific Director’s Award, and the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology’s Merck Innovative Ophthalmology Research Award. He also founded and served as director of the Student Sight Savers Program, a program that provides vision screening services to low-income residents of Baltimore, and helps them obtain access to clinical ophthalmological care.
Presently, he is interested in the neurobiological processes that lead to retinal ganglion cell death and dysfunction in glaucoma and other optic neuropathies. In particular, he seeks to better understand the molecular mechanisms underlying axonal degeneration, dendrite retraction and afferent synapse loss, and cell body death in glaucoma. His goal is to utilize knowledge of these processes to develop targeted neuroprotective strategies to slow or halt RGC death and preserve vision for patients with glaucoma. He is also leading new investigations into the use of stem cell transplantation to achieve retinal ganglion cell placement, as a potential regenerative treatment for optic nerve disease, with a focus on anatomic incorporation of cell grafts, neurite growth and synapse formation, and electrophysiological retinal circuit integration.