Summer 2013 UNC Eye Newsletter Available Online

UNC Eye announces the planned opening on August 21st, 2013 of the new UNC Eye Care Center in our latest Newsletter.

To read our latest UNC Eye Newsletter, click here.  Topics include:

  • New UNC Kittner Eye Center
  • Chairman's Corner
  • Facility Comparison
  • 2013 Spring Symposium
  • Multidisciplinary Surgical Skills Lab
  • Tri-Residency Cataract Course
  • UNC Eye Receives Grant
  • Construction of Carolina Crossing
  • Faculty News
  • Directions to UNC Eye Care Center at Carolina Crossing

To view and download an archive of past editions of the UNC Eye Newsletter, please click here.

UNC Eye Care Center Relocating August 21st

New Address: 2226 Nelson Highway, Suite 200; Chapel Hill, NC 27517.

On August 21st, our new location will merge the services currently provided at the Ambulatory Care Center (ACC) and UNC Eye at Chapel Hill North and will be the home of the Kittner Eye Center, UNC Optical Shop, and UNC Hospitals Macular Treatment Center.

UNC Eye Care Center will be located off Interstate 40, exit 273A, across from the Mardi Gras Bowling Center at State Road 54 and Farrington Road.

Patients will experience the same world class eye care with a hometown touch that they've always known, now in a new and more convenient location that features free parking.  We can’t wait for you to experience our vision for the future of eye care.

For more information about the Kittner Eye Center or to schedule an appointment, please call 919-966-2061.

Carolina Crossing time lapse
Time lapse photo progression of construction of UNC Eye Care Center at Carolina Crossing (Photos and layout: Sarah Moyer and Rona Lyn Esquejo)

(off Interstate 40, exit 273A across from Mardi Gras Bowling Center at State Road 54 and Farrington Ro

Winter 2015 UNC Eye Newsletter Available Online

The Winter 2015 UNC Eye Newsletter discusses our new Campaign Advisory Board, introduces six new clinical faculty members and one new scientific research faculty member, announces two exciting new expansions, and focuses on our new Ocular Oncology team, among other topics.

Click here to download the Winter 2015 UNC Eye Newsletter.  

Topics in this edition of UNC Eye include:

  • UNC Eye Campaign Advisory Board
  • Chairman's Corner
  • UNC Eye Expanding to Wake County, NC
  • Han Joins UNC Eye Scientific Research Faculty
  • Cabrera and Ulrich Travel to China to Continue Training Visiting Ophthalmologists
  • Opening of Dry Eye Center
  • Clinical Spotlight - Ocular Oncology
  • New Patient Record System Goes Live
  • Meet the New UNC Eye Fellows
  • Budenz Receives Outstanding Humanitarian Award
  • UNC Eye Welcomes Six New Clinical Faculty Members
  • In Memoriam: David Kittner
  • Introducing the UNC Eye Resident Class of 2017
  • Where Are They Now?


David Eifrig, MD, first chair of Ophthalmology, has died

Dr. Eifrig was the first Chairman of UNC Department of Ophthalmology, serving from 1977 - 2000. He passed away peacefully on October 9, 2013.
David Eifrig, MD, first chair of Ophthalmology, has died click to enlarge David E. Eifrig, M.D., was the first Chair of the UNC Department of Ophthalmology, serving from 1977 - 2000.

David Eric Eifrig, 78, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, passed away peacefully on October 9, 2013. He was born in Oak Park, Illinois and graduated from Carleton College in 1956. He was a loving husband, father, and a retired ophthalmologist.

He attended medical school at The Johns Hopkins University and residency in Surgery and Ophthalmology at The Wilmer Eye Institute in Baltimore, Maryland from 1956-1967. He was a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and served in the Medical Corps from 1962-64. His retina fellowship was served in Los Angeles at The Jules Stein Eye Institute from 1967-68.

Dr. Eifrig began practicing ophthalmology in 1968 in Lexington, Kentucky. He later moved his family to Minnesota and practiced there from 1970 to 1977, becoming Associate Professor. He moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 1977 where he founded the UNC School of Medicine’s Department of Ophthalmology. He was the chairman of the department from then until his retirement in 2000.

Dr. Eifrig was well-loved as an academic and clinician at UNC. He was best known for his love of and caring for patients, especially those of lesser means. He has served on multiple medical missions, donating his time and money to programs in Africa, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Saudi Arabia. During one trip to Jamaica, he stood for nearly 14 hours without a break to treat patients who had waited for days to see him and his team. By the end of the day, most nurses and residents serving with him were too tired to stand.

He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Kathryn C. Eifrig. He is also survived by his four children; David E. Eifrig Jr., Elizabeth Ann Hietala, Catherine Marie Eifrig, and Charles William Gustav Eifrig.

A memorial service will take place on November 24, 2013 at 3:30 p.m. at Chapel Hill Country Club, 103 Lancaster Drive, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 27517. Telephone: 919-967-8201

In lieu of flowers, friends, family, and those touched by this wonderful doctor are asked to make donations to the David E. Eifrig Ophthalmology Fund at UNC- Chapel Hill School of Medicine. The fund sponsors the annual David E. Eifrig Lecture in Ophthalmology. The fund selects a visiting lecturer each year who embodies Dr. Eifrig’s spirit of devotion to patients, and a passion for helping research disease. The address is: David E. Eifrig Ophthalmology Fund, Sandy Scarlett Development Director, UNC Eye, Campus Box 7040, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599.

David Kittner, long-time donor to UNC Eye, dies at 95

David Kittner, of Jenkintown, PA, a long-time donor to UNC Eye, for whom the UNC Kittner Eye Center is named, died Friday, April 18 at his home. He was a corporate attorney and longtime partner at Blank Rome L.L.P. in Philadelphia, PA.
David Kittner, long-time donor to UNC Eye, dies at 95 click to enlarge In Memoriam: David Kittner (1918 - 2014) - photo credit: Sam Kittner

A native of North Carolina, Mr. Kittner graduated from Weldon (N.C.) High School in 1934 and went on to earn a business degree from the University of North Carolina in 1939 and a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1951. Between the two degrees, he was an accountant and served a short time in the Army at the Presidio in San Francisco.

Mr. Kittner set up a scholarship at UNC in his parents' memory in 1988. Twenty years later, he endowed a fund to create the UNC Kittner Eye Center and then gave additional funds to establish a distinguished professorship in ophthalmology.  

“Mr. Kittner was passionate about establishing a center of excellence in eye care that resulted in donations to establish the Kittner Eye Center and a Distinguished Professorship in Ophthalmology at UNC," UNC Department of Ophthalmology Kittner Family Distinguished Professor and Chairman Donald L. Budenz, MD, MPH said. "He will be missed by everyone whose lives he touched, but his legacy will live on here in Chapel Hill.”

Mr. Kittner is survived by his wife of 34 years, Constance; daughters Harriett and Susan; a stepdaughter, Jane; a stepson, Richard; a sister; and a brother.

Services were held Tuesday, April 22, at Joseph Levine & Sons Memorial Chapel, followed by a private burial.

In lieu of flowers, contributions in David Kittner's memory can be made to the Kittner Eye Center, 5151 Bioinformatics Building CB 7040, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Baldwin Elected President of Scleral Lens Education Society

Baldwin Elected President of Scleral Lens Education Society click to enlarge Dr. Bruce Baldwin at the Global Specialty Lens Symposium, January 2013

UNC Eye faculty member, Dr. Bruce Baldwin, Optometrist, PhD, was elected President of the Scleral Lens Education Society (SLS) at the Global Specialty Lens Symposium in Las Vegas on January 24.  The SLS is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization committed to teaching eye care practitioners and patients about the benefits and availability of ocular prosthetic devices known as scleral contact lenses.

Scleral Lens
Example of large diameter rigid gas permeable scleral lens

These devices are used to treat and manage severe eye conditions related to disease, trauma, or surgery. The rigid, gas permeable lenses can be very large, up to the size of a quarter, and fit over the entire front portion of the eyeball.  “It is extremely gratifying for me and often life changing for a patient to be fit with a scleral lens.  I have treated people who were legally blind who have obtained a driver license, or who have had eye pain for years and are nearly pain free while wearing these devices,” said Dr Baldwin.

Dr. Baldwin was a founding board member of the SLS in 2010 along with Drs Greg DeNaeyer and Christine Sindt. The Society now has over 1,200 members from thirty two countries.  He has conducted scleral lens lectures and workshops around the United States, teaching eye doctors to fit the devices.  He has also hosted international live webinars, which were presented to eye doctors around the world.

Dr. Baldwin, Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, manages the Contact Lens Clinic at UNC and sees patients Monday - Friday.  Referring doctors can arrange an appointment through the Ophthalmology website.  Patients can make an appointment through the Ophthalmology appointment system at 919-966-5509.

More information on scleral lenses is found at the SLS website

Scleral Lens up close
This patient is almost legally blind in the right eye from severe scarring after eye trauma. He can read magazine print while wearing the scleral lens (arrows). He is blind in the left eye.



Dr. Jonathan Dutton Named to Spinoza Chair at University of Amsterdam

The UNC School of Medicine's Dr. Jonathan Dutton has been appointed to the prestigious Spinoza Chair Visiting Professorship at the University of Amsterdam for 2013.
Dr. Jonathan Dutton Named to Spinoza Chair at University of Amsterdam click to enlarge Dr. Jonathan Dutton

UNC Eye Care is pleased to announce that Dr. Jonathan Dutton has been named the 2013 recipient of the Spinoza Chair in Medicine at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.  As a result of this honor, Dr. Dutton will spend a week in Amsterdam delivering lectures to the University faculty, local ophthalmologists, and the general public in Spring 2013.

In addition to providing his lectures, Dr. Dutton will also present a Master Class to students and residents during his time in Amsterdam.  "I am honored to receive this award and to represent as best as I can the UNC Ophthalmology Faculty," said Dr. Dutton, who has pioneered research in orbital reconstruction and treatment of spastic eyelid disease while at UNC.

"This is quite an honor for not only Dr. Dutton, but also for the UNC Department of Ophthalmology.  We take great pride in sharing Dr. Dutton's success and look forward to announcing more about his and our other faculty members' endeavors in the coming months," said Dr. Donald Budenz, Chairman of the UNC Department of Ophthalmology.

Dr. Dutton expects to begin his visiting professorship in Amsterdam in April, 2013.

About the Spinoza Chair in Medicine:

The Spinoza Chair was established in 1995 by the then Faculty of Humanities of the University of Amsterdam. The Spinoza Lectures are given by high-profile thinkers of our time. They are intended for a wide audience that would like to keep abreast of current developments in philosophy and medicine.

Named in honor of Baruch Spinoza, the 17th Century Dutch philosopher, this prestigious visiting professorship includes two Annual lectureships, one in Philosophy, the other in Medicine.

Research on Telemedicine and Retinal Imaging Featured in "Archives of Internal Medicine"

Research on Telemedicine and Retinal Imaging Featured in "Archives of Internal Medicine" click to enlarge Dr. Seema Garg

Dr. Seema Garg's research on Telemedicine and Retinal Imaging was recently featured online at the "Archives of Internal Medicine" website.  According to the research:

"Early detection of diabetic retinopathy (DR) is crucial to prevent blindness. Timely intervention with laser therapy can reduce the risk of severe vision loss by more than 90%. Despite well-accepted national and international guidelines, on average, less than 50% of patients with diabetes mellitus (DM) undergo screening for retinopathy in the United States. Barriers to care include socioeconomic factors, geography, lack of patient education, and cultural barriers among minorities.

Telemedicine is an emerging strategy for improving DR screening through retinal imaging with remote expert interpretation. Introducing this technology at the point of care of the primary care physician could substantially reduce barriers and improve early detection of retinopathy. Outside of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) system, effectiveness data for telemedicine screening in the United States is limited.

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the impact of telemedicine on DR screening in a primary care setting with a diverse patient and payer mix. Predictors of DR were determined by analyzing clinical patient characteristics obtained at the time of image acquisition."

The full article can be found here.

UNC Eye MD Dr. Jonathan Dutton Releases New Textbook: Atlas of Ocuplastic and Orbital Surgery

UNC Eye MD Jonathan Dutton recently authored his 8th textbook, "Atlas of Oculoplastic and Orbital Surgery," available for purchase at UNC Student Stores and via online booksellers.

Many important advances have taken place in oculoplastic, lacrimal, and orbital surgery during the last 20 years.  Unlike other books of its kind, the new Atlas of Oculoplastic and Orbital Surgery offers detailed, step-by-step instructions from initial skin marking and cut to final closure for more than 90 commonly performed oculoplastic, lacrimal, and orbital surgeries. Each step also includes a matching illustration inverted to accommodate the surgeon’s actual position during the surgery.

In addition to clear instruction, the text for each surgery covers preoperative evaluation discussions, postoperative care instructions, and how to avoid and manage potential complications.


  • More than 1,000 detailed color illustrations
  • Text and matching illustration are presented side-by-side for easy reference
  • Key points help reader plan the most appropriate operation and minimize complications
  • Surgeons can follow each step and perform the procedure even if they aren’t familiar with it.


Dr. Dutton's other published textbooks include:

  • Atlas of Clinical and Surgical Orbital Anatomy (JJ Dutton). 2nd edition, 2011, Elsevie Saunders, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.
  • Radiology of the Orbit and Visual Pathways (JJ Dutton), 2010, Saunders, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.
  • Diagnostic Atlas of Common Eyelid Diseases (JJ Dutton, GS Gayre, AD Proia), 2007, Informa Helathcare, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.
  • Thyroid Eye Disease (JJ Dutton, BG Haik), 2002, Marcel Dekker, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.
  • Diagnostic Atlas of Orbital Diseases (JJ Dutton, SF Byrne, AD Proia), 2000, Saunders, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.
  • Atlas of Ophthalmic Surgery, Vol. II, Oculoplastic, Lacrimal, and Orbital Surgery (JJ Dutton), 1992, Mosby Year Book, out of print
  • A Color Atlas of Ptosis. A Practical Guide to Evaluation and Management (JJ Dutton). 1989,  PG Publishing, out of print

Eye Lifts Can Help Men With Vision Problems

UNC Eye MD Amy Fowler was recently featured in a segment broadcast on WRAL-TV, based in Raleigh, NC, in which she discussed why more and more men are turning to cosmetic surgery in the form of eye lifts to help alleviate vision problems caused by sagging skin that worsens with age.
Eye Lifts Can Help Men With Vision Problems click to enlarge Amy Fowler, MD

Click here to visit and learn more:

To make an appointment with Dr. Fowler or any UNC Eye MD, please call 919-445-2020.

Five UNC Eye MD's Listed in The Best Doctors in America 2013

These doctors were also listed in the December 2012 issue of Business North Carolina Magazine, as part of its annual compilation of the best doctors in North Carolina.

Two hundred seventy-seven (277) UNC Health Care physicians are included in the latest compilation of The Best Doctors in America® database.

In addition, many of these doctors are also listed in the December 2012 issue of Business North Carolina Magazine, as part of its annual compilation North Carolina’s Best Doctors.

Only about 5 percent of physicians in the U.S. are included in the Best Doctors database. The Best Doctors database contains the names and professional affiliations of more than 45,000 doctors in the United States, all chosen through an exhaustive peer-review survey that asks: “If you or a loved one needed a doctor in your specialty, to whom would you refer them?” The peer review process as well as additional research conducted by Best Doctors determines selections for each list.

The five UNC Eye Ophthalmologists included in a group of 277 UNC physicians listed in the Best Doctors database are:


Best Doctors, Inc. is based in Boston and provides highly specialized medical services to nearly 10 million people in over 30 countries. Best Doctors’ global database is updated continuously through a peer-review based evaluation of the medical profession, and includes 50,000 doctors worldwide named “best,” in over 40 specialties and 400 subspecialties of medicine. Best Doctors, Best Doctors in America and the star-in-cross logo are registered trademarks of Best Doctors, Inc. in the United States and other countries, and are used under license.

Fighting Blindness - Help UNC Eye Do Its Part

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, more than 32 million people around the world have lost their vision entirely. Find out more about blindness, its global impact, and how you can help UNC Eye combat eye disease in North Carolina and elsewhere by becoming a scientific research partner.

Global blindness infographic from AAO


UNC Eye is relentlessly conducting scientific research and diligently providing clinical patient care to treat and prevent blindness in North Carolina, the rest of the United States, and around the world. Call 984-974-2020 to schedule an appointment with a UNC Eye MD.  

To learn more about research at UNC Eye and how you can contribute to our scientific research efforts in the fight against blindness, please  or call her at 919-843-1299.

Donor Brochure 2014 Cover

Healthy Vision Month - Take Our Vision Quiz

As we observe Healthy Vision Month this May, we invite you to take this interactive vision quiz to find out how much you know about your eyes.

Healthy Vision Month

July 4th Fireworks Display Safety

Fireworks Can Cause Permanent Vision Loss. Follow these tips to say safe and protect your vision this Fourth of July.
July 4th Fireworks Display Safety click to enlarge Kenan Stadium, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Photo Credit: Town of Chapel Hill)

As we prepare to celebrate our nation's Independence, the month of July has been designated as Fireworks Eye Safety Month by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).

"Fireworks are a common cause of severe eye and hand injuries that can permanently ruin lives and turn a joyous celebration into a horrible nightmare," UNC Eye Care Center Chairman Donald L. Budenz, MD, MPH said. "That is why most states have correctly outlawed the sales of fireworks to the public."

Here are some safety tips from the AAO for preventing eye injuries related to handling and viewing fireworks this 4th of July:

  • Never handle fireworks without protective eyewear and ensure that all bystanders are also wearing eye protection.
  • Never let young children play with fireworks of any type. If older children are permitted to handle fireworks, ensure they are closely supervised by an adult and wear protective eyewear.
  • Clear the area of flammable materials and view fireworks from at least 500 feet away.
  • Leave the lighting of professional-grade fireworks to trained pyrotechnicians.

For those who attend professional fireworks displays and/or live in communities surrounding the shows:

  • Respect safety barriers at fireworks shows.
  • Do not touch unexploded display (show) fireworks; instead, immediately contact local fire or police departments to help.

Related Articles:

Click here to learn more about Fireworks Eye Safety from the AAO

Officials warn about fireworks dangers with dramatic display

Chapel Hill’s Fourth of July Fireworks Celebration at Kenan Stadium

June is UV Safety Month

As you prepare to enjoy the warm weather and bright sunshine this summer, don't forget to protect your eyes as well.

Summertime means more time spent outdoors, and studies show that exposure to bright sunlight may increase the risk of developing cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and growths on the eye, including cancer.*

This June, UNC Eye joins the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AA0) in observing UV (ultraviolet light) Safety Awareness Month. Through its EyeSmart™ campaign, the AAO wants to remind Americans of the importance of protecting their eyes from the sun's harmful rays by wearing proper protection.  We also want to remind you of the importance of protecting eyes from indoor UV light when using tanning beds.

The AAO offers these tips to protect your eyes from the sun:

  • Don't focus on color or darkness of sunglass lenses:
    • Select sunglasses that block UV rays. Don't be deceived by color or cost.
    • The ability to block UV light is not dependent on the price tag or how dark the sunglass lenses are.
  • Check for 100 percent UV protection:
    • Make sure your sunglasses block 100 percent of UV-A rays and UV-B rays.
  • Choose wrap-around styles:
    • Ideally, your sunglasses should wrap all the way around to your temples, so the sun's rays can't enter from the side.
  • Wear a hat:
    • In addition to your sunglasses, wear a broad-brimmed hat to protect your eyes.
  • Don't rely on contact lenses:
    • Even if you wear contact lenses with UV protection, remember your sunglasses.
  • Don't be fooled by clouds:
    • The sun's rays can pass through haze and thin clouds. Sun damage to eyes can occur anytime during the year, not just in the summertime.
  • Protect your eyes during peak sun times:
    • Sunglasses should be worn whenever outside, and it's especially important to wear sunglasses in the early afternoon and at higher altitudes, where UV light is more intense.
  • Never look directly at the sun.
    • Looking directly at the sun at any time, including during an eclipse, can lead to solar retinopathy, damage to the eye's retina from solar radiation.
  • Don't forget the kids:
    • Everyone is at risk, including children.
    • Protect their eyes with hats and sunglasses.
    • Try to keep children out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun's UV rays are the strongest.

During UV Safety Month, remember to schedule your eye exam appointment with a UNC Eye MD by calling 919-966-5509.


* Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology

UNC Eye Publishes Dry Eye Management Scale

Under the leadership of Richard Davis, MD, UNC Eye is pleased to announce the opening of the UNC Dry Eye Management Center, focused on the evaluation and treatment of Dry Eye Disease.
UNC Eye Publishes Dry Eye Management Scale click to enlarge Richard Davis, MD

UNC Eye faculty member Richard Davis, MD and his team have developed the UNC Dry Eye Management Scale (DEMS), a single-item questionnaire that is reliable, patient-driven, and clinic friendly to help eye care specialists assess Dry eye disease (DED) symptoms and their effect on quality of life to help support the management of patients with DED.

Click here to download the UNC DEMS.

DED is a common ocular disease that affects 5% to 17% of the United States population with prevalence increasing with age.  Studies have confirmed that DED adversely affects a person’s quality of life by limiting a person’s ability to read comfortably, concentrate, operate a computer, drive, or even perform basic work tasks.

The UNC DEMS offers a bridge between patient and provider in working together to manage this challenging disease.  The goal is that this tool will assist physicians and their patients in the monitoring and management of dry eye disease in clinical practice. 

As part of the validation process, the UNC DEMS is not administered to patients without instructions by clinic staff.  The UNC DEMS is currently being validated in Spanish, French, and Arabic. Instructions on administering the UNC DEMS may be found here

The adverse effects on quality of life typically become more pronounced with disease chronicity and symptom severity.

With the increasing recognition that DED symptoms diminish quality of life and that patient outcomes are not easily assessed in clinical practice, dry eye researchers at UNC have recently developed and published the UNC Dry Eye Management Scale (UNC DEMS).  - Richard Davis, MD

"The UNC DEMS assesses patients' symptoms and their effect on daily life over the 'past week.'  This patient reported outcome was designed to be efficiently implemented in clinical practice and provides important information for both patients and providers about dry eye status and treatment effectiveness," said Dr. Davis. 

The opening of the UNC Dry Eye Management Center represents the first patient-centered Dry Eye Center that uses the UNC DEMS designed for clinical practice at each patient visit to assess patients' symptoms and effect on daily life to help guide treatment. 

Each patient receives a treatment plan based on the type of dry eye disease.  Treatment plans are reviewed with each patient.  The diagnostics and treatments offered patients at the "Center" are state of the art, that includes in part, the RTvue OCT scanner, Confoccal Microscopy, Lipiflow, autologous tears, and topical DHEA.

What is an Ophthalmologist?

Ophthalmologists, Optometrists, and Opticians all play a significant role in providing eye care to patients. Learn the difference between each role in this informative video produced by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).

Ophthalmologist (Eye MD):

  • Medical doctor, specializing in the eye
  • Medically trained to diagnose and treat all eye disease, infections and injuries
  • Trained to perform eye surgery


  • Doctor of optometry
  • State licensed practitioner
  • Diagnoses refractive errors and corrects problems with glasses or contacts
  • Detect and manage some eye diseases


  • Adjusts and dispenses glasses, contact lenses and other optical devices
  • Based on prescriptions from ophthalmologists or optometrists
  • Does not test vision, write prescriptions, or treat or diagnose eye disease and injuries

UNC Eye features trained and licensed Ophthalmologists, Optometrists, and Opticians who are capable of diagnosing and treating most any eye disease at the Kittner Eye Center, located near the intersection of NC Highway 54 and Farrington Rd in Chapel Hill, NC.  

Call 984-974-2020 to schedule an appointment today.

Low Vision Awareness - UNC Eye Faculty, Residents, & Staff Meet Mira USA Foundation Founder

MIRA USA Founder Bob Baillie and staff visited Chapel Hill North to share his story and mission with UNC Eye
Low Vision Awareness - UNC Eye Faculty, Residents, & Staff Meet Mira USA Foundation Founder click to enlarge Dr. Amy Fowler, MIRA USA Founder Bob Baillie (& guide dog DJ), MIRA USA Lead Trainer Eric St. Pierre, Dr. Drew Hunter, Dr. Lyndon Lee

Bob Baillie, founder of MIRA USA, and several members of his staff visited Dr. Amy Fowler and UNC Eye staff at Chapel Hill North recently.  MIRA USA is an Aberdeen, NC-based organization which is the only one in the United States whose mission is to provide guide dogs to children between the ages of 11 and 17.   Mr. Baillie founded MIRA USA in 2008 after losing his sight as a result of complications from coronary bypass surgery.

Bob Baillie and staff arrive at CH North
Bob Baillie (left), Eric St. Pierre (center), and MIRA USA Staff arrive at Chapel Hill North

After appearing on several local Triangle television news outlets to spread the word about the need for young people who are without sight to have the opportunity to have guide dogs and the work of MIRA USA, Mr. Baillie brought about 10 of his most recently completely trained guide dogs to UNC Eye at Chapel Hill North.  He and his team, led by MIRA head trainer Eric St. Pierre, conducted demonstrations on what it's like to be without sight and rely on a guide dog to do everyday things that many people take for granted, such as walk down the sidewalk in a busy shopping center.

Dr. Amy Fowler, First-Year UNC Eye Resident Dr. Drew Hunter, and UNC Eye Fellow Dr. Lyndon Lee, along with several other staff members participated by walking blindfolded with a trained guide dog along the crowded walkway outside the UNC Eye office at Chapel Hill North, under the watchful supervision of the MIRA staff.  All of the participants marveled at the sophisticated level of training the guide dogs received and what a unique experience it was to rely on them for help in navigating their way.

Dr Fowler chats with Bob Baillie
MIRA USA Founder Bob Baillie chats with Dr. Amy Fowler

"Wow! What an experience to just trust this dog," Dr. Fowler said after taking a 100 yard walk down the sidewalk at Chapel Hill North, while blindfolded and led by Fiona, the guide dog that MIRA USA provided for the demonstration.  An additional 8 children were introduced to their guide dogs for the first time in a ceremony in Pinehurst, NC on March 17th.  For more information on MIRA USA, visit

A. Fowler & MIRA dogs
Dr. Amy Fowler and two MIRA USA seeing eye dogs

Dr Lee receives instruction from MIRA trainer
Dr. Lyndon Lee receives instruction from MIRA USA trainer

McKenzie and Dawn and MIRA dogs

Click here to hear Eric St. Pierre talk about his experiences in training seeing eye dogs.

MIRA USA Founder Bob Baillie and staff visited Chapel Hill North to share his story and mission with UNC EyeMIRA USA Founder Bob Baillie and staff visited Chapel Hill North to share his story and mission with UNC Eye

MIRA USA Founder Bob Baillie and staff visited Chapel Hill North to share his story and mission with UNC Eye

March is Age-Related Macular Degeneration Awareness & Low Vision Awareness Month

What is Age Related Macular Degeneration?
March is Age-Related Macular Degeneration Awareness & Low Vision Awareness Month click to enlarge Comparison of Normal Vision (top) vs. the same scene as viewed by a person with Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) - source: National Institutes of Health

As UNC Eye continues to follow the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) Calendar of Monthly Observances, March is designated as Age-Related Macular Degeneration Awareness & Low Vision Awareness Month.

According to the AAO:

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a deterioration or breakdown of the eye's macula. The macula is a small area in the retina — the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye. The macula is the part of the retina that is responsible for your central vision, allowing you to see fine details clearly.

Click here to learn more about AMD from the American Academy of Opthalmology.

The following UNC Eye MDs specialize in treating AMD:


To schedule an appointment with any UNC Eye MD, please call 919-966-5509.

May is Healthy Vision Month

May is Healthy Vision Month: a perfect time to get your baseline eye disease screening by age 40!
May is Healthy Vision Month click to enlarge Keep vision sharp by visiting your Eye M.D. for a baseline exam by age 40.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends an eye disease screening for all adults as they age.

The Academy now recommends that adults with no signs or risk factors for eye disease get a baseline eye disease screening at age 40 — the time when early signs of disease and changes in vision may start to occur.

Based on the results of the initial screening, an ophthalmologist will prescribe the necessary intervals for follow-up exams.

Don't miss out on reading, driving, and watching children and grandchildren grow.  During Healthy Vision Month, remember to schedule your eye exam appointment with a UNC Eye MD by calling 919-966-5509.

Share these important tips from the AAO's website with your friends and loved ones.

Vision is our most precious sense. Protect your sight by getting regular eye exams with an ophthalmologist.

Chairman Emeritus Meredith Named Distinguished Alumnus by Wilmer Eye Institute

Travis Meredith, MD was recently named the 1973 Distinguished Alumnus by Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins Hospital
Chairman Emeritus Meredith Named Distinguished Alumnus by Wilmer Eye Institute click to enlarge Travis Meredith, MD

June 14, 2013

Written by Laura Alderson for UNC Health Care

BALTIMORE, MDUNC Eye Chairman Emeritus, Travis Meredith, MD addressed the 72nd annual meeting of the Wilmer Residents Association, one of the oldest residents’ associations in the country, giving a presentation on retinal vasculitis and tracing his time at Wilmer – almost at the halfway mark in its distinguished 88-year history.  Dr. Meredith was a student at Wilmer in 1968 and a resident from 1970 to 1975.

“We had a technologic explosion. The diseases we treat are still the same, but now we just have so much more we can do. We’ve adopted clinical trials methodology as a way of proving new therapies," said Dr. Meredith.

"There was also a trend toward subspecialization within ophthalmology. About that time, sections were developed devoted solely to one subspecialty, such as retina, pediatrics, glaucoma or cornea. The young faculty there at the time built their careers on that.

New Patient Records System Goes Live

Introducing EPIC@UNC, an electronic medical record that makes it easier than ever for patients to access timely medical information and connect with their providers within UNC Health Care.

With EPIC@UNC comes a new online service - My UNC Chart - to help our patients stay connected to their care through one secure, easy-to-use online portal.

Visit My UNC Chart to:

  • Manage your appointments
  • Communicate with your doctor
  • Access your test results
  • Pay bills online
  • Manage accounts of loved ones
  • Request prescription refills
  • Track your health
  • Get the MyChart mobile app

Sign up for My UNC Chart here.

Click here to view My UNC Chart frequently asked questions.

Omega-3 fatty acids provide no benefit in slowing age-related macular degeneration

Taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements does not slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration, a newly published study finds. However, some people may benefit from taking lutein and zeaxanthin.
Omega-3 fatty acids provide no benefit in slowing age-related macular degeneration click to enlarge Photograph of a macula (the highly sensitive center of the retina) with intermediate age-related macular degeneration.


Media contact: Tom Hughes, (919) 966-6047,

Thursday, May 9, 2013

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – A large new study finds that taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements has no effect on slowing the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

However, for people with low levels of lutein or zeaxanthin in their diets, supplementation with lutein and zeaxanthin may slow the progression of AMD, the study found.

Four researchers in the Department of Ophthalmology in the University of North Carolina School of Medicine contributed to the Age-related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) 2. Results from AREDS 2 were published online May 5 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“Many patients ask whether they should be taking lutein and omega-3 fatty acids for their age-related macular degeneration (AMD),” said Odette Houghton, MD, associate professor and one of the UNC researchers. The others were Seema Garg, MD, PhD, Maurice B. Landers III, MD and Travis M. Meredith, MD, chair emeritus of the Department of Ophthalmology.

“The AREDS 2 results indicate that if you have low levels of lutein or zeaxanthin in your diet, or if you take the original AREDS vitamins without beta-carotene, then supplementation with lutein and zeaxanthin may slow the progression of AMD. However, omega-3 fatty acids appear to have no beneficial or harmful effect on AMD,” Houghton said.

The AREDS2 study  suggests that lutein and zeaxanthine are safer alternatives to beta-carotene in those people who have a history of smoking. There was a higher incidence of lung cancer in participants that had a history of smoking and who took AREDS supplements with beta-carotene.

“We have no control over some of the major risk factors for the advancement of AMD, such as age and family history,” Houghton said. “Regular dilated eye exams, avoidance of smoking and taking AREDS2 supplements when indicated are ways we may be able to reduce the risk of blindness from AMD.”

However, the AREDS supplements have only been shown to be effective in people who already have an intermediate stage of AMD. These supplements do not benefit people who have no AMD or mild AMD. A dilated eye exam by an eye care provider is the only way to detect AMD, Houghton said.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that adults get a baseline eye disease screening at age 40. The necessary interval for follow-up exams can be based on the results of this screening. Everyone age 65 and over should have complete eye exams every one to two years.

Ophthalmology Chair Elected to Prestigious Public Health Society

Donald Budenz, MD, MPH elected to Alpha Chapter of Delta Omega.
Ophthalmology Chair Elected to Prestigious Public Health Society click to enlarge UNC Eye Chair Donald L. Budenz, MD, MPH is inducted into the Alpha Chapter of Delta Omega Public Health Honor Society by Michael J. Klag, MD, MPH, Dean of Johns Hopkins School of Public Health

UNC Eye Department Chair Donald Budenz, MD, MPH, was one of only ten Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health alumni selected to the Alpha Chapter of Delta Omega, the most prestigious society in Public Health.

"Dr. Budenz has been a leader in the fields of glaucoma and public health and it is terrific that he has been chosen to receive this well deserved honor by his peers in the public health community" said Kuldev Singh, MD, MPH, Professor of Ophthalmolgy, Director of the Glaucoma Service at Stanford University and current President of the American Glaucoma Society.

Budenz, who graduated with his MPH from Johns Hopkins in 2004, was nominated and selected for his ongoing contributions to research in ophthalmology, including the medical testing of glaucoma, epidemiology of eye disease in West Africa, and clinical trial leadership.

Since the establishment at Johns Hopkins of the Alpha Chapter, the Society has expanded nationally to 59 local chapters with about 6,000 members, including the Theta Chapter at UNC Chapel Hill's Gillings School of Public Health.

Ophthalmology Chair Publishes Landmark Epidemiology Papers from West Africa

UNC Eye Kittner Family Distinguished Professor and Chair Donald L. Budenz, MD, MPH and international collaborators have published a pair of landmark papers describing the prevalence of blindness, visual impairment, and glaucoma in urban West Africa.
Ophthalmology Chair Publishes Landmark Epidemiology Papers from West Africa click to enlarge Donald L. Budenz, MD, MPH examines a patient in Ghana, West Africa.

Dr. Budenz and his research group worked for 2-1/2 years in Tema, Ghana, West Africa, where they performed eye examinations with ancillary testing and photography on over 5,600 randomly selected adults age 40 and over. They found the highest prevalence of glaucoma in the world (6.8%) and a startlingly high prevalence of blindness and visual disability in this group.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide, but it is preventable if identified early enough. The study will be used to heighten awareness of the glaucoma problem in people of African descent and to direct resources to glaucoma screening and treatment in Africa.

The studies, entitled "Tema Eye Survey" and "Tema Glaucoma Prevalence," were published in the top two clinical ophthalmology journals, Ophthalmology and JAMA Ophthalmology, respectively.

In reference to the Tema Eye Survey, Jeffrey Liebmann, MD, the immediate past president of the American Glaucoma Society said, "Hopefully this study will cause other organizations to focus resources on this difficult problem."

Dr. Budenz recently returned to Chapel Hill from his most recent annual trip to Ghana, where he and his team continued their glaucoma research and performed eye examinations.

Real Doctors, Real People featuring UNC Eye MD, Dr. Nick Ulrich

Nick Ulrich, MD, a retina specialist at UNC Eye, brings to the operating table years of practice, not only with the skills necessary to operate in an environment where millimeters matter, but also as an accomplished tennis competitor.

Click here to read more about Dr. Ulrich from the UNC Health Care and School of Medicine Newsroom.

real doctors, real people - UNC Eye MD's Michelle Cabrera and Odette Houghton

Michelle Cabrera, MD and Odette Houghton, MD, met as colleagues in the UNC Department of Ophthalmology. Both are surgeons -- one helps give sight to children the other helps to save the retina. They share a love of rock climbing and started climbing together.
real doctors, real people - UNC Eye MD's Michelle Cabrera and Odette Houghton click to enlarge Michelle Cabrera, MD (left), and Odette Houghton, MD take in the view from the top of Pilot Mountain.

- Written by Nathan Clendenin for UNC Health Care -

Michelle Cabrera, MD and Odette Houghton, MD, met as colleagues in the UNC Department of Ophthalmology.  Both are surgeons - one helps give sight to children, the other helps to save the retina. They share a love of rock climbing and started climbing together.

I've done a little bit of climbing myself. Just enough to know how challenging and how demanding it is. You use every muscle in your body, but of particular worth are your eyes and your brain as you make sense of the mystery before you, deciding which hold to grab onto next, all while working with your increased heart rate and blood pressure due to fear of falling.  It's a challenge for sure, and one that these two welcome as they hone their critical and creative thinking skills together.

Houghton, who is actually afraid of heights, pushes past the uncomfortable feeling, sweaty hands and clinched teeth, to reach new heights, both literally and figuratively, as she relishes the feeling of accomplishment after reaching the top of a cliff.

Whether you're into clinging to the side of a mountain or not, you'll definitely want to watch this month's real doctors, real people for the natural beauty captured at Pilot Mountain, N.C.

Residents' Research Day - June 15th, 2013

Residents' Research Day, featuring the S. Dace McPherson, Jr. Memorial Lecture will be held June 15, 2013.

The UNC Department of Ophthalmology will celebrate Residents' Research Day on June 15th, 2013 in the UNC Lineberger Building - Joseph S. Pagano Conference Room (450 West Drive; Chapel Hill, NC 27514).  The Annual Research Day presentations will feature 15-minute presentations of research performed by UNC Eye Ophthalmology residents and fellows, along with a Visiting Professor lecture and a Distinguished Alumnus lecture.

For additional information, contact Chris Postlethwait via email or via phone at 919.843.0264.

The Visiting Faculty will be:

  • S. Dace McPherson, Jr. Memorial Lecturer: D. Rex Hamilton, MD, MS, FACS of Jules Stein Eye Institute, University of California at Los Angeles, keynote address: "Advanced Corneal Tomography and Biomechanics"
  • Distinguished Alumnus Lecturer: Evan H. Black, MD, FACS, UNC Eye Class of 1998

Click here for directions.

Click here to view a printable Schedule of Events.






Telemedicine Has Potential to Reduce Risk of Vision Loss from Diabetic Retinopathy

Garg's research on telemedicine represents a potential paradigm shift in the management of retinal complications of diabetes
Telemedicine Has Potential to Reduce Risk of Vision Loss from Diabetic Retinopathy click to enlarge Seema Garg, MD, PhD

A UNC Eye researcher is finding ways to reduce vision loss from Diabetic Retinopathy by taking advantage of advances in telemedicine.  The March 2013 edition of Retinal Physician magazine features an article by UNC Eye MD Seema Garg about her research on how the use of telemedicine can help treat Diabetic Retinopathy.

Per the article:

Telemedicine for Diabetic Retinopathy evaluation "establishes a logical partnership between primary care physicians and retina specialists by facilitating the identification of patients who are at high risk of vision loss from diabetes and who may not seek the recommended annual evaluation by an ophthalmologist... This could make a major public health contribution by ultimately reducing barriers to care and preventing vision-threating DR."

Click here to read the article.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Garg or any of our UNC Eye MD's, please call 919-966-5509.

Announcing LASIK at UNC Laser Vision Center

Call 919-445-2020 to schedule your free consultation appointment with UNC Eye to see if LASIK is the right solution for you.

UNC Eye is now scheduling appointments for refractive eye surgery featuring LASIK at UNC Laser Vision Center, located inside the Kittner Eye Center.  If you're considering refractive surgery, take advantage of the highest-quality laser solutions and the best technology available at UNC Laser Vision Center. Our renowned and experienced team can recommend the procedure best suited for your individual needs.  

At the Kittner Eye Center, you can be assured of comprehensive care for the long term health of your eyes so no matter what the future holds, you'll always know you made the right decision.  

Call 919-445-2020 now to schedule your free consultation to find out which solution is best for you.

Our experienced staff features:

Richard M. Davis, MD

Karl Stonecipher2
Karl G. Stonecipher, MD

Nisha Mehta - cropped
Nisha P. Mehta, OD, FAAO

Scott Lawrence, MD appearing on YOUR HEALTH® Radio (WCHL 97.9 FM in Chapel Hill)

UNC Eye MD Dr. Scott Lawrence will appear on YOUR HEALTH® radio, UNC Family Medicine's weekly health radio show, airing April 26th - 28th.

Dr. Scott Lawrence, Assistant Professor at the UNC Department of Ophthalmology and Director of UNC’s Glaucoma Program, will appear on YOUR HEALTH® radio, UNC Family Medicine's weekly health radio show, to talk about Glaucoma & Blindness Prevention.

Please tune in via podcast at:

This show will also air on the radio at:

WCHL 97.9 FM
• Saturday, April 26th at 9am
• Sunday, April 27th at 9am and 5pm
• Monday, April 28th at 6pm and 10pm

Click here to listen to the show!

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Lawrence, please call 919-445-2020.

Listen to an archive of YOUR HEALTH® radio podcasts here.

Steven Gray, Ph.D. featured in 'Nature' Science Journal article

Nature, the international weekly journal of science, recently featured UNC Eye Researcher Steven Gray, PhD in an article about scientists who specialize in uncommon diseases.
Steven Gray, Ph.D. featured in 'Nature' Science Journal article click to enlarge Steven Gray, PhD

An excerpt from the article:

Steven Gray used to spend long hours in the lab for the simple love of science. As a postdoctoral researcher, he was tinkering with a virus in search of ways to shuttle genes into nerve cells for gene therapy. Then, in 2008, his adviser sent him to a meeting held by a non-profit organization called Hannah's Hope Fund, and Gray found a new inspiration.

Hannah's Hope Fund is a charity based in Rexford, New York, that supports research on giant axonal neuropathy (GAN), a fatal nerve disorder. At the meeting, Gray met Hannah Sames, a clumsy four-year-old with tight curls and a sweet smile whose disease had inspired her parents to start the charity. He launched a GAN project after the meeting. “I looked at her and saw my own daughter,” says Gray, whose child was then also four. “Now I'm focused on finding a treatment, almost as I would for my own child.”

Click here to view the full article.

Tips for Choosing Safe Toys This Holiday

Some popular toys can cause serious eye injuries this holiday season. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 265,000 toy-related injuries were treated in emergency rooms in 2012, and and almost half of these injuries affect the head or face – including the eyes. Unfortunately, most of these injuries happen to children under age 15.

Top Toy Safety Tips, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology:

  • Avoid purchasing toys with sharp, protruding or projectile parts.
  • Make sure children have appropriate supervision when playing with potentially hazardous toys or games that could cause an eye injury.
  • Ensure that laser product labels include a statement that the device complies with 21 CFR (the Code of Federal Regulations) Subchapter J.
  • Along with sports equipment, give children the appropriate protective eyewear with polycarbonate lenses. Check with your Eye M.D. to learn about protective gear recommended for your child's sport.
  • Check labels for age recommendations and be sure to select gifts that are appropriate for a child's age and maturity.
  • Keep toys that are made for older children away from younger children.

If your child experiences an eye injury from a toy, seek immediate medical attention from an ophthalmologist – an eye medical doctor.  To make an appointment with a UNC Eye MD, call 919-966-5509.

Top 10 Tips for Eye Health

Here are the top 10 tips to preserve your vision, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology

Per the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO):

More than 20 million Americans suffer from severe vision loss. While not all eye diseases can be prevented, there are simple steps that everyone can take to help their eyes remain healthy now and reduce their chances of vision loss in the future.

As the weather warms up and many of us are getting more active, the risk of eye injuries increases.  The AAO shared these top ten tips to safeguard your vision:

  1. Wear sunglasses
  2. Don't Smoke
  3. Eat a healthy diet
  4. Have a baseline eye exam by age 40
  5. Wear eye protection when playing sports or doing home repair jobs
  6. Know your family history
  7. Early intervention
  8. Know your eye care provider
  9. Contact lens care
  10. Be aware of eye fatigue

Please click here to read more about each of the AAO's top 10 tips.  

To schedule an appointment with a UNC Eye MD, please call 919-445-2020.  The UNC Kittner Eye Center is open Monday - Friday from 8:00am - 5:00pm.

UNC Eye Receives Prestigious Research to Prevent Blindness Unrestricted Grant

Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) has awarded a grant of $110,000 to UNC Eye Care Center to support research into the causes, treatment, and prevention of blinding diseases.

The research will be directed by Donald L. Budenz, M.D., M.P.H., Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.  This grant is structured to be automatically renewed annually in the amount of $110,000, then subject to periodic review by RPB starting in 2016.

RPB is the world's leading voluntary organization supporting eye research.  To date, the organization has awarded grants totaling $1,630,500 to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

"Research to Prevent Blindness provides unrestricted research funding to the top research departments of ophthalmology in the US," Dr. Budenz said. "UNC Eye’s program to prevent and cure blindness through gene therapy and stem cell research will benefit greatly from this generous grant."

Since it was founded in 1960, RPB has channeled hundreds of millions of dollars to medical institutions throughout the United States for research into all blinding eye diseases.  For information on RPB, RPB-funded research, eye disorders and the RBP Grants Program, go to

UNC Eye Celebrates Residents' & Fellows' Research Day

On Saturday, June 15th, UNC Eye Care Center celebrated Residents' & Fellows' Research Day for 2013.
UNC Eye Celebrates Residents' & Fellows' Research Day click to enlarge UNC Eye Residents left to right: Michael Compton, MD; Jonathan Zoghby, MD; Drew Hunter, MD; James Wrzosek, MD, MA; Kevin Gertsch, MD; Bradley King, MD; Adam Dao, MD; Robert van der Vaart, MD; David Fleischman, MD (photo by Sarah Moyer)

Click here to view the Program Agenda.

Keynote speakers were:

UNC Eye Chairman Donald L. Budenz, MD, MPH said, “Thanks to the hard work of the residents and fellows and our two visiting professors, Drs. Hamilton and Black, I heard from faculty and alumni that this was the best UNC Residents' Day ever.”

Please enjoy the following photos from the Residents' & Fellows' Research Day Lectures and Dinner:

jharri1's 2013 UNC Eye Residents Day Slide Show album on Photobucket
Photo credits: Sarah Moyer, James Harris

2013 Residents' Day Awards:

  • Resident of the Year: Robert van der Vaart, MD
  • Senior Surgical Excellence Award: Jonathan Zoghby, MD
  • Arthur C. Chandler Outstanding Resident as Teacher Award: Kevin Gertsch, MD
  • Frederick W. Stocker Research Award: David Fleischman, MD
  • Resident Clinical Excellence Award: James Wrzosek, MD


UNC Eye Resident Video Senior Video 2013:

UNC Eye Hosts 2013 Spring Symposium

UNC Eye hosted the 2013 Spring Symposium on Saturday, April 13th at the Rizzo Conference Center in Chapel Hill.  Visiting Professors and UNC Faculty presented the latest in the areas of:

  • Retina
  • Glaucoma
  • Cornea
  • Neuro-ophthalmology
  • Pediatrics
  • Plastics

Participants were able to claim 8.5 AMA PRA Category 1 Continuing Medical Education credit(s).

Featured speakers included Visiting Professors:

John G. Clarkson, MDJohn G. Clarkson, MD - Keynote Speaker

American Board of Ophthalmology

University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

Bascom Palmer Eye Institute

Eduardo Alfonso, MD

Eduardo Alfonso, MD

University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

Bascom Palmer Eye Institute


Oscar A. Cruz, MD

Oscar A. Cruz, MD

St. Louis University School of Medicine

St. Louis University Eye Institute


Steven E. Feldon, MD, MBA

Steven E. Feldon, MD, MBA

University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry

Flaum Eye Institute


Philip J. Rosenfeld, MD, PhDPhilip J. Rosenfeld, MD, PhD

University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

Bascom Palmer Eye Institute


M. Bruce Shields, MD


M. Bruce Shields, MD

Yale University School of Medicine

Yale Eye Center

Craig M. Greven, MD


Craig M. Greven, MD

Wake Forest University

Wake Forest University Eye Center

Douglas J. Rhee, MD

Douglas J. Rhee

Associate Professor of Ophthalmology

Harvard Medical School


Symposium participants are invited to provide UNC Eye with feedback on the symposium by clicking here and completing the survey provided.

UNC Eye Hosts First-Ever Tri-Residency Cataract Course

Newly Opened NC Eye Bank Surgical Skills Lab at UNC hosts UNC, Duke, & Wake Forest faculty and residents who converge to discuss cataract treatment
UNC Eye Hosts First-Ever Tri-Residency Cataract Course click to enlarge Dr. Ken Cohen oversees training in the Surgical Skills Lab

UNC Eye recently hosted the first-ever Tri-Residency Cataract Course, in which faculty and residents from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, and Wake Forest University gathered together for lectures and case discussions about cataract treatments.  Faculty from each institution gave lectures on cataract surgery and then residents had the opportuthnity to practice under supervision in the newly opened NC Eye Bank Surgical Skills Lab at UNC.

UNC Eye Department Chair Donald L. Budenz, MD, MPH said, "The ability to teach microsurgery to residents in a state-of-the-art laboratory is a huge advance in residency training. In addition to weekly training in cataract surgery, we will be holding courses in every subspecialty monthly to teach surgical techniques to treat glaucoma, corneal disease, retinal disease, oculoplastics, and strabismus surgery. This will be excellent preparation for our trainees before they begin operating on real patients."

Dr. Budenz continued, "In addition, we are in the process of organizing weekend training courses in the implantation of newly approved implants for the management of glaucoma. These courses will be open to practicing ophthalmologists who may not have received training in the implantation of devices that were not available when they did their residency training."

Bradley King - Surgical Skills Lab
First-year resident Bradley King, MD
Residents & Fellows in Lab
Residents and Fellows in Surgical Skills Lab

The cross-University participation was greatly appreciated.  UNC Eye Professor Kenneth L. Cohen, MD said, "To me, the exciting part of our first phacoemulsification training course was the educational experience received by ophthalmology residents from not only UNC, but Duke and Wake Forest. As state-of-the art as our facility is, our successful course could not have happened without expert participation by faculty from Duke and Wake Forest, vendors, teaching by our very own third year residents, and support from our department."

Dr. Cohen teaching in lab
Dr. Cohen provides instruction and leadership

UNC Eye Residents were very excited to have this new resource at their disposal.  Chief Resident, Kevin Gertsch said, "The Surgical Skills Lab is an amazing new addition to our residency program. This first-class facility demonstrates the clear focus on education at UNC.  The Surgical Skills Lab allows us to master the skills necessary to become excellent surgeons. Residents can learn and be observed through monitors at individual stations to provide one-on-one instruction.  This training is invaluable for both the residents and their patients enabling residents to become proficient and confident with procedures prior to going to the operating room.  We currently have access to the lab for both large group instruction as well as individual practice time. This allows for a variety of learning opportunities."

Dr. Gertsch continued, "We have weekly lab time to work on surgical procedures of our choice and monthly conferences with faculty members teaching specific procedures in the various subspecialties within ophthalmology.  We have the chance to practice techniques required for corneal transplants, glaucoma procedures, eye muscle surgery, complicated anterior segment procedures and even practice retinal lasers.  The facility has more than enough room and stations for our entire residency program to practice at the same time.  We have enjoyed sharing the facility with our colleagues in Otolaryngology and Neurosurgery as we all benefit from the available technology and training resources.

Our recent tri-residency cataract course was a success for all who attended.  Residents from UNC, Duke, and Wake Forest were able to be instructed by faculty from all three residency programs and then put the new principles learned into action in the wet lab.  Using pig eyes and artificial eyes from the KITARO wet lab system, first year residents practiced the multiple steps of cataract surgery under the supervision of faculty experts and upper-level residents.

Residents in Surgical Skills Lab2
Chief Resident Kevin Gertsch, MD, first-year Resident Rob van der Vaart, MD, and second-year Resident Adam Dao, MD instruct fourth-year medical student Ronald Milam


The cataract course for first-year residents reflects the strong tradition at UNC to begin learning surgical skills early in residency training to encourage a more in-depth and comprehensive understanding of the principles of ophthalmic surgery.  We plan to hold similar courses in the future and hope expand to invite upper-level residents from all three NC programs to participate as well.  We also hope that the new lab will be a center for education for other surgeons in the community."


Second-year UNC Eye Resident, Adam Dao, MD was somewhat surprised by his experience during the course, saying, "The UNC Cataract Course was the most educational, efficient, and dare I say it, fun(!) educational activity that I have had since I have been an ophthalmology resident. It was great to get formal instruction and feedback from faculty from a myriad of institutions. It was also nice to meet other residents from other programs and to share (and commiserate about) our experiences in learning cataract surgery. The course was as professional and high caliber as the new North Carolina Eye Bank surgical skills laboratory."


Third-year UNC Eye Resident, Jim Wrzosek found the course extremely valuable, stating, "Overall, being able to first see lectures from experienced faculty on basic phaco techniques followed by an immediate opportunity to practice those techniques under the supervision of the faculty and advanced residents showcased the one of the main strengths of both the training course and the new practice lab.  The availability of top end phaco equipment from AMO and the new cataract simulation equipment from Kitaro also helped make the course valuable for the residents."


For more information on the North Carolina Eye Bank Surgical Skills Lab at UNC, please contact lab manager Matt Pillsbury at

Gertsch in lab instructing
Chief Resident Kevin Gertsch, MD provides instruction

UNC Eye Hosts Second Annual Tri-Residency Phaco Training Course

The North Carolina Eye Bank Surgical Skills Lab at UNC served as the setting as residents from UNC, Duke University, Wake Forest University, and Medical University of South Carolina took part in the second Tri-Residency Phaco Training Course, led by UNC Eye Professor Kenneth Cohen, MD.

2014 UNC Eye Tri-Residency Phaco Training Course


2014 UNC Eye Tri-Residency Phaco Training Course pt 2

Here are some quotes from participants in this year's Tri-Residency Phaco Training Course:

Kenneth L. Cohen, MD - Sterling A. Barrett Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology, UNC Eye
 "The Phacoemulsification Training Course was a great success. Residents from four training programs, UNC, Duke, Wake Forest, and MUSC, were able to experience lectures from diverse faculty and practice phacoemulsification in our state-of-the-art surgical lab." 


"The course was truly a unique and worthwhile experience for all. It is exciting and rewarding to partner with Abbott to present our course on a yearly basis."




Cassandra White
Cassandra White, MD
"The phaco training course was not only a skill building lab, but an opportunity to build camaraderie among our Ophthalmology colleagues." 
"I was paired with another 1st year resident from Wake Forest and received guidance from instructors from our UNC faculty as well as Duke and Wake Forest faculty.  The different approaches and teaching styles exhibited by the different faculty members throughout the course were invaluable to a new resident trying to learn the skills necessary for a successful cataract extraction." 
"The lectures were thoughtful, appropriate, and generated interesting discussion from differing view points. This was a memorable experience that I will refer back to as I continue my path to becoming a surgeon."

Robert van der Vaart
Robert van der Vaart, M.D. (Chief Resident)

"The phacoemulsification course built on its strong debut last year by improving the breadth of topics discussed. It was especially helpful for us as residents to experience various insights from attending of 4 different institutions, both in the academic and private practice environments."
"Additionally, topics at this year's course included optics and postoperative management, often overlooked in similar training courses."



Veronica Kon-Graversen
Veronica Kon-Graversen, MD
 "I really enjoyed the Phaco course. I have never used the Kitaro system to practice, and I thought it was pretty useful. In addition, we could practice extracapsular, which is a technique that can be quite useful to know. 

"One of the things that i liked the most was to be able to share with differents attendings, expert in phaco, all the tips and tricks to do a good job."



Michael Compton
Michael Compton, MD - Chief Resident, UNC Eye

"The Tri Residency Phaco course was a tremendous success again this year. It affords residents from across NC the opportunity to learn from many experienced surgeons and educators and then apply these skills in a unique, state of the art facility."

Catherine Reppa
Catherine Reppa, MD


"The course was great. I really enjoyed getting more hands on experience and starting to familiarize myself with the instruments. It was great to actually get to use the phaco- feel the foot pedal, and maneuver the hand piece. All of the attendings (and upper level residents) in attendance were of great help and gave a lot of good pointers."



UNC Eye MD Featured in Article Celebrating 40 Years of North Carolina AHEC

Seema Garg, MD, PhD spotlighted on UNC Chapel Hill main website as she talks about why AHEC is important to UNC and to the state.
UNC Eye MD Featured in Article Celebrating 40 Years of North Carolina AHEC click to enlarge Seema Garg, MD, PhD

UNC Eye faculty member Seema Garg, MD, PhD recently spoke about the importance of the North Carolina Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) Program in a feature on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill main website.

Dr. Garg is a retina specialist who has been flying via AHEC’s Medical Air Operations to a retina clinic in New Bern for the past eight years. She is also pioneering a statewide telemedicine program for diabetic retinopathy evaluation by working with the Mountain, Eastern, Southern Regional and Greensboro AHEC primary care residency programs.

Here are a few highlights of Dr. Garg's conversation:

Why do you do what you do through AHEC?

Garg: AHEC helps me reach the UNC Department of Ophthalmology’s retinal clinic in New Bern, N.C., via AHEC’s Medical Air Operations. In addition, the infrastructure of the AHEC sites across the state facilitates our medical services to patients we wouldn’t normally be able to help, for instance, through telemedicine.

How have you influenced people through AHEC and what influence do you hope to have in the future?

Garg: Diabetes-related retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in North Carolina, and this promising new collaboration we’re working on with AHEC will greatly benefit patients who may have poor access to sub-specialty eye care geographically and financially.

The North Carolina Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) Program, based at Carolina, sends out hundreds of faculty members to towns across the state to teach, to care for patients and to look for ways to improve how each center serves the local community. Nine regional centers serve all 100 counties in North Carolina.

UNC Eye MDs Part of Joint Effort to Provide Care to Baby With Rare Genetic Disorder

Surgeons within UNC's General Pediatrics, Pediatric Otolaryngology, Urology and Ophthalmology departments will once again pool resources to help young Adam Paulraj or “Baby Adam,” who was born with Bartsocas-Papas Syndrome - a rare genetic disorder that caused multiple birth defects.

Back in 2011, UNC Health Care shared the story of Baby Adam here.

The interdisciplinary effort to help Baby Adam resumes at UNC Health Care in mid-August, with several UNC Eye MDs as part of the team. "Baby Adam's care has been a huge multidisciplinary effort, pooling resources to give Adam the best possible chance at having a meaningful life, including the use of his vision, said Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, Michelle T. Cabrera, MD.

"Several UNC ophthalmologists have been involved in the effort, including Dr. Jonathan Dutton, who reconstructed his eyelids, Dr. Richard Davis, who gave Adam a corneal transplant and myself, who provides Adam with ongoing medical and refractive management."

Leading the multidisciplinary effort is Dr. John van Aalst, Craniofacial Plastic Surgeon with the Department of Surgery - Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Baby Adam was born in September 2011 in India with Bartsocas-Papas, a rare syndrome that caused him to be born without eyelids and fingers. He had a cleft palate, cleft lip and his legs were fused. Having gone through a number of surgeries at UNC last fall, his parents hope to raise $150K before his next scheduled surgery in mid-August.

Read more about Baby Adam at the following sites:

Read a previous UNC story and watch a video about Baby Adam online:

You can contribute to the Baby Adam fund through the Medical Foundation of North Carolina at:

UNC Eye Newsletter Available Online

UNC Eye celebrates 60 years of serving the people of North Carolina in our latest Newsletter.

To read our latest Newsletter, click here.  Topics include:

  • Chairman's Corner - Donald Budenz, MD, MPH
  • 25 Year Faculty Member
  • Meet Our First Resident
  • 2012 Spring Symposium
  • Intermediate Historical Perspective - David Chesnutt, MD
  • New Optical Shop Manager
  • Dutton Appointed Spinoza Chair
  • 2013 CME Calendar
  • Resident & Fellow Update

UNC Eye & North Carolina Lions - A Partnership of Caring

UNC Eye would like to take a moment and sincerely thank North Carolina Lions and Lions Clubs International for their dedicated support, which has helped us provide leadership in patient care, education, and research over the past 23 years.

Since 1990, the donations and commitment of North Carolina Lions and Lions Clubs International have helped UNC Eye improve vision to the visually impaired children, youth, and adults of North Carolina and others whom we serve.

Press "play" on the video below to learn more:


Thanks to our relationship with this generous service organization, Michelle Cabrera, MD and J. Niklas Ulrich, MD are training two visiting ophthalmologists from China to treat Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), a disease that renders many children in their homeland blind, with no qualified individuals or means to treat the condition.

UNC Eye is also providing a more comfortable patient experience by using the Electroretinogram (ERG) machine, donated by NC Lions, to evaluate the function of the retina.

UNC Eye Participates in Glaucoma Advocacy Day

UNC Eye Chairman Dr. Donald L. Budenz and Glaucoma Fellow Dr. O'Rese Knight met with US Senator Kay Hagan to discuss the importance of NIH funding for glaucoma research.
UNC Eye Participates in Glaucoma Advocacy Day click to enlarge UNC Eye Chair Donald L. Budenz, MD, MPH, Senator Kay Hagan, & UNC Eye Glaucoma Fellow O'Rese J. Knight, MD

On February 26, 2014, UNC Eye Chairman Donald L. Budenz, MD, MPH and Glaucoma Fellow O'Rese J. Knight met with US Senator Kay Hagan for an event that the Senator calls "Carolina Coffee" to discuss the critical importance of funding from the National Institute of Health for glaucoma research.  

Senator Hagan's office is open every Wednesday morning, when the Senate is in session, for North Carolinians to come by and talk with her and her staff.

Drs. Budenz and Knight meet with US Senator Kay Hagan
Drs. Budenz and Knight meet with US Senator Kay Hagan to discuss the importance of NIH funding for glaucoma research.

Here are some facts about Glaucoma, from the American Academy of Ophthalmology:

Glaucoma is a disease that damages the eye’s optic nerve. The optic nerve is connected to the retina — a layer of light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye — and is made up of many nerve fibers, like an electric cable is made up of many wires. It is the optic nerve that sends signals from your retina to your brain, where these signals are interpreted as the images you see.

    • Among Americans, higher-risk groups include those of African or Hispanic heritage and others with a family history of the illness.
    • Elderly people with African ancestry are five times more likely to develop glaucoma and 14 to 17 times more likely to become blind than similarly aged people with European ancestry.
    • The risk for Hispanic Americans rises markedly after age 60.
    • Those of any ethnicity who have a family history of the illness are four to nine times more susceptible.

If you have symptoms of or are at risk for eye diseases like glaucoma, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends seeing your ophthalmologist to determine how frequently your eyes should be examined. If you are age 65 and older or have high risks for glaucoma, you may qualify for an eye exam at no out-of-pocket cost through EyeCare America. Those with no symptoms or risk factors for eye disease should get a baseline screening at age 40, when the signs of disease and change in vision may start to occur.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Budenz or Dr. Knight, please call 919-445-2020.

UNC Eye Participates in UNC Science Expo

UNC Eye connected with over 10,000 members of the Chapel Hill and surrounding communities as an exhibitor at the UNC Science Expo.
UNC Eye Participates in UNC Science Expo click to enlarge Dr. Michelle Cabrera chats with a visitor to the UNC Eye booth at the UNC Science Expo
UNC Eye Participates in UNC Science Expo click to enlarge Dr. Cabrera talks with students about color blindness using the Ishihara Color Testing Book.

The UNC Science Expo was held along Cameron Avenue on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Saturday, April 12th.  Pediatric Ophthalmologist Michelle Cabrera, MD and Senior Marketing Manager James Harris represented UNC Eye with an interactive exhibit that taught visitors about the structure of the eye, 3D vision, and color blindness just across from UNC campus icon The Old Well.  

"Participating in this event was really special. It was such a joy to help educate young kids from our community about the eye and vision," Dr. Cabrera said. "I hope it inspired some future ophthalmologists!"

"The energy at the Science Expo was infectious," Harris said. "The young people who stopped by our booth were surprisingly knowledgeable about the structure of the eye and very interested in learning more about vision.  We had a continuous flow of interested visitors at our booth from the time the Expo opened until it ended."

There were also displays that highlighted the research programs in progress at UNC Eye along with the new UNC Laser Vision Center.

Harris continued, "It was also very rewarding to be able to spread the word about our research programs and LASIK practice.  UNC Eye looks forward to participating in the Science Expo in 2015 and beyond."

UNC Eye research points to promising treatment for macular degeneration

Experiments show promising results for a drug that could lead to a lasting treatment for millions of Americans with macular degeneration.
UNC Eye research points to promising treatment for macular degeneration click to enlarge Subretinal hemorrhage in a wet macular degeneration patient.

Sept. 9, 2013

Media Contact: Tom Hughes,, 919-966-6047

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine today published new findings in the hunt for a better treatment for macular degeneration. In studies using mice, a class of drugs known as MDM2 inhibitors proved highly effective at regressing the abnormal blood vessels responsible for the vision loss associated with the disease.

“We believe we may have found an optimized treatment for macular degeneration,” said senior study author Sai Chavala, MD, director of the Laboratory for Retinal Rehabilitation and assistant professor of Ophthalmology and Cell Biology & Physiology at the UNC School of Medicine. “Our hope is that MDM2 inhibitors would reduce the treatment burden on both patients and physicians.”

The research appeared Sept. 9, 2013 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Chavala AMD image - mouse
Normal adult mouse retinal vasculature. Credit: Chavala Lab.

As many as 11 million Americans have some form of macular degeneration, which is the most common cause of central vision loss in the western world. Those with the disease find many daily activities such as driving, reading and watching TV increasingly difficult.

Currently, the best available treatment for macular degeneration is an antibody called anti-VEGF that is injected into the eye. Patients must visit their doctor for a new injection every 4-8 weeks, adding up to significant time and cost.

“The idea is we’d like to have a long-lasting treatment so patients wouldn’t have to receive as many injections,” said Chavala. “That would reduce their overall risk of eye infections, and also potentially lower the economic burden of this condition by reducing treatment costs.” Chavala practices at the Kittner Eye Center at UNC Health Care in Chapel Hill and New Bern.

All patients with age-related macular degeneration start out with the “dry” form of the disease, which can cause blurred vision or blind spots. In about 20 percent of patients, the disease progresses to its “wet” form, in which abnormal blood vessels form in the eye and begin to leak fluid or blood, causing vision loss.

While anti-VEGF works by targeting the growth factors that lead to leaky blood vessels, MDM2 inhibitors target the abnormal blood vessels themselves causing them to regress — potentially leading to a lasting effect.

Chavala and his colleagues investigated the effects of MDM2 inhibitors in cell culture and in a mouse model of macular degeneration. They found that the drug abolishes the problematic blood vessels associated with wet macular degeneration by activating a protein known as p53. “p53 is a master regulator that determines if a cell lives or dies. By activating p53, we can initiate the cell death process in these abnormal blood vessels,” said Chavala.

MDM2 inhibitors also have conceivable advantages over another treatment that is currently being investigated in several clinical trials: the use of low-dose radiation for wet macular degeneration. Radiation works by causing DNA damage in cells leading to an increase in p53 and cell death. MDM2 inhibitors activate p53 without causing DNA damage. Also, MDM2 inhibitors can be given by eye injection, which is advantageous over some forms of radiation treatment that require surgery to administer.

Co-authors include Younghee Kim, Nagaraj Kerur and Jayakrishna Ambati of the University of Kentucky; Laura Tudisco, Valeria Cicatiello and Sandro De Falco of the Institute of Genetics and Biophysics in Napoli, Italy; Till Milde, Nidia Claros and Shahin Rafii of Weill Medical College of Cornell University; Susan Yanni and John S. Penn of Vanderbilt University; Victor H. Guaiquil of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, N.Y.; William W. Hauswirth of the University of Florida; and Thomas C. Lee of Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

Disclosure Statement: Dr. Chavala has filed a patent for the use of MDM2 inhibitors for treating ocular conditions and is founder of Serrata, LLC, which plans to commercialize novel treatments for ocular disease.

UNC Eye Researcher Jennifer Williamson Has Article Published in The Lancet

Prestigious medical journal publishes article on "Bilateral exudative retinal detachments in Sturge-Weber syndrome"
UNC Eye Researcher Jennifer Williamson Has Article Published in The Lancet click to enlarge Jennifer Williamson

Jennifer Williamson (UNC School of Medicine Class of 2013), a medical student and future resident (starting in July 2014) working on a rotation with UNC Eye MD Dr. Sai Chavala, recently had an article published in the The Lancet, one of the most prestigious journals in all of medicine.  Click here to read the article.

Said Sai Chavala and Jennifer Williamson, "We are delighted that The Lancet has chosen to publish these clinical images.  Sturge-Weber syndrome is a disorder that requires multidisciplinary care, and awareness of its ocular complications, including retinal detachments, by multiple specialties is necessary to prevent vision loss.  We hope that these images will help readers make the association between the “port wine” stain of Sturge-Weber syndrome and its ocular manifestations in order to re-emphasize the importance of ocular exams in these patients."

For more information on Sturge-Weber syndrome, please visit the Sturge-Weber foundation website or call 919-966-5509 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Chavala.

Meet the 2014/2015 UNC Eye Fellows

Fellows specialize in Cornea, Glaucoma, and Retina, respectively. Also provide clinical instruction.

Meet the UNC Eye Fellows for 2014 / 2015:

Maya Bitar, M.D.

Cornea Fellow/Clinical Instructor

Residency: University of Louisville

Internship: Wayne State University

Medical School: St. Joseph's University Medical School

Lindsay Davis, Fellow 2014Lindsay Davis, M.D.

Glaucoma Fellow/Clinical Instructor

Residency: University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

Internship: University of Texas Southwestern Medical School

Medical School: University of Texas Medical School at San Antonio



Ali Torab Parhiz, 2014 FellowAli Torab Parhiz, M.D.

Retina Fellow/Clinical Instructor

Residency: Stony Brook University


Medical School: Saint Louis University

UNC Eye Welcomes Resident Class of 2017

Introducing the UNC Eye Resident Class of 2017:

Sylvia Groth, MD

Sylvia Groth, M.D.

  • Undergrad: Wheaton College
  • Major: BA, Business/Economics
  • Medical School: University of Minnesota
  • Internship: Presence St. Francis Hospital Transition Year Program, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Outside interests: road cycling, long distance races (halfironman, half marathons), golf (college varsity team), travelbackpacking and hiking

Kay Khine, MD

Kay Khine, M.D.

  • Undergrad: University of Southern California
  • Major: BA, Biology
  • Medical School: East Carolina University
  • Internship: Harbor-UCLA Medical Center Transition Year Program, Torrance, California
  • Outside Interests: Long distance running, powderpuff football, travelingwatching sports, photography (published)
  • Special note: Burmese immigrated to US at age 11 and learned English after arriving

Tara McGehee, MD

Tara McGehee, M.D.

  • Undergrad: University of Virginia
  • Major: BA, Neuroscience
  • Medical School: Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Internship: Medical College of Virginia Internal Medicine Program, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Outside Interests: Spanish, salsa dancing, international travel, cooking.

Jennifer Williamson, MD

Jennifer Williamson, M.D.

  • Undergrad: Duke University
  • Major: BS, Biology and History
  • Medical School: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Internship: New Hanover Regional Medical Center Internal Medicine Program, University of North Carolina
  • Outside Interests: Cooking/baking, history, canoeing, horseback riding, running

UNC Eye Welcomes Five New Clinical Faculty Members

New physicians specialize in Cornea, Uveitis, Pediatric Ophthalmology, Glaucoma, Ophthalmic Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, and Ocular Oncology

Meet Our New UNC Eye Physicians:

Neil Chungfat cropped 2014

Neil Chungfat, M.D., M.S.

Assistant Professor

Clinical Specialties: Corneal Disease, Uveitis

Appointments: 984-974-2020

Click here to learn more about Dr. Chungfat.

Natario Couser, MD (cropped)

Natario Couser, M.D., M.S.

Assistant Professor

Clinical Specialties: Pediatric Ophthalmology & Adult Strabismus

Appointments: 984-974-2020

Click here to learn more about Dr. Couser.

Kevin Gertsch, M.D. 2014

Kevin Gertsch, M.D.

Assistant Professor

Clinical Specialties: Pediatric Ophthalmology & StrabismusOcular Oncology

Appointments: 984-974-2020

Click here to learn more about Dr. Gertsch.

Assistant Professor

Clinical Specialty: Glaucoma

Appointments: 984-974-2020

Click here to learn more about Dr. Knight.

Associate Professor

Clinical Specialties: Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive SurgeryOcular Oncology

Appointments: 984-974-2020

Click here to learn more about Dr. Zaldivar.

Dr. Chungfat, Dr. Couser, Dr. Gertsch, Dr. Knight, and Dr. Zaldivar are available to see patients in their areas of specialty at the UNC Kittner Eye Center.  Call 984-974-2020 to schedule an appointment.

UNC Optical Shop news: Holiday Schedule and year-end reminder

The UNC Optical Shop will have adjusted hours during the Holiday season. In addition, state employees are reminded to use their Superior Vision benefits before Dec. 31, 2014 and Flexible Spending Account before March 15, 2015.

As the holiday season is in full swing and the 2014 calendar year draws to a close, UNC Optical Shop announces the following holiday schedule:

UNC Optical Shop Holiday Schedule

  • Hours of business remain Monday through Friday, 9:00am - 5:00pm, however we will be closing for lunch daily from 1:00pm - 2:00pm through January 2, 2015.  
  • On January 5, 2015, we will go back to regular hours, with no closure from 1:00pm - 2:00pm.
  • The Optical Shop will be closed the following dates:
    • December 24
    • December 25
    • December 26
    • January 1 

Reminder to State Employees: Use Superior Vision Benefits by December 31st and Flex Spending Account Benefits by March 15th

  • Superior Vision plan are currently based on a calendar year.
  • 2014 Superior Vision plan benefits will expire on December 31.
  • Benefits not used by Dec. 31 are surrendered and can not be carried over.  
  • On 01/02/2015, benefits will be in force for the 2015 calendar year.
  • Health Care Flexible Spending Accounbenefits for employees expire March 15 of the following year.
  • 2014 Flexible Spending Account balances are lost after March 15, 2015.
  • Any money not used by March 15, 2015 is surrendered and cannot be carried over.
  • On March 16, 2015, only contributions elected for 2015 will be available.

20% Discount 

*20% employee and immediate family discount cannot be combined with any insurance plan or other discount plan.


  • UNC Optical Shop is located in the Kittner Eye Center on NC Highway 54, just off Interstate 40 (exit 273).  Map

Why Do Strong Emotions Turn on the Tears?

In light of this holiday season, UNC Eye MD Richard Davis was recently featured in an interview with the Raleigh News & Observer newspaper's website, in which he discussed the topic of "Why do strong emotions turn on the tears?"

Dr. Richard Davis is an Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at UNC Chapel Hill and a researcher at the N.C. Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute (NC TraCS). He was recently interviewed by the Raleigh News & Observer website, to whom he explained what causes – and what is contained within – the tears that frequently surface during the holidays.

Here is an excerpt:

Q. Why do people cry when they are sad?

A. It is difficult to answer exactly why tears form when a person is struck by emotion. It is much more intuitive to understand that when your eyes are dry, they tear. Or when something gets in your eye, you cry. Crying is typically an emotional response to situations that may be happy or sad. On a physiological level, we know that the connections between emotion and crying are governed by specialized almond-shaped structures deep within the brain called the amygdala, which play a role in emotional states such as depression and alcoholism.


To make an appointment with Dr. Davis or any UNC Eye MD, please call 919-445-2020.

Winter 2014 UNC Eye Newsletter Available Online

The Winter 2014 UNC Eye Newsletter focuses on the opening of the UNC Laser Vision Center slated for early 2014, our research expansion into the areas of gene therapy and stem cell therapy for eye diseases, and our telemedicine program to prevent blindness from diabetic eye disease.

To read our latest UNC Eye Newsletter, click here.  Featured topics include:

  • Preserving Vision - Efforts in Regenerative Ophthalmology Address the Common Causes of Blindness
  • Chair's Corner
  • We've Moved!
  • Community Low Vision Center Opens in Kittner Eye Center
  • Donor Gifts Help Fight Blindness
  • Celebrating Our Donors
  • Laser Vision Correction Services Added in 2014
  • Telemedicine's Role in Preventing Diabetes-Related Blindness
  • Faculty News