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SUNY Downstate Medical Center

Department of Ophthalmology

photo of Doug Lazarro

John Danias, MD, PhD
Professor and Interim Chairman

Chairman's Message

Welcome to the Department of Ophthalmology at the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate campus. We are located in Brooklyn which is part of New York City. We strive to provide exceptional eye care, train the next generation of ophthalmologists and develop cures for diseases affecting vision.

The Department of Ophthalmology at SUNY Downstate has a well-established history of accomplishment as an educator of physicians, and one that has made enormous progress in making eye care more available to the Brooklyn community. The program's reputation as a center of clinical and research excellence has grown steadily in the last few years and the department now provides state-of-the-art care to the borough's residents. In assessing the growth and current strength of our ophthalmology program, the following comparison is instructive: SUNY Downstate's catchment area contains a population of approximately 685,000 - roughly equal to that of the city of Boston. In 1996, the residents of Boston were served by 250 practicing ophthalmologists; in contrast, SUNY Downstate's catchment area had only eight. In 2017, we have 14 Part and Full time Clinical Faculty representing every subspecialty working at 6 sites throughout Brooklyn and lower Manhattan.

In the past, many Brooklynites were traveling to Manhattan physicians for eye care with 30-40 percent of ophthalmology patients treated in Manhattan coming from Brooklyn. At the same time, a large portion of the Brooklyn population received no eye care at all. As we have increased the size and breadth of our department we have to a large degree reversed that trend. In fact some of our faculty has started to bring patients from other NYC boroughs to Brooklyn for their eye care. Our lower Manhattan location allows even more patients convenient access to our faculty.

A critical goal of the department is providing an excellent practice environment for our residents-in-training and young faculty, stressing Brooklyn's many attractions as a place to build a career. This is coupled with a commitment to find ways to provide desperately needed care for the many community residents with glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and other disorders that are potentially blinding or that otherwise diminish their quality of life. Our faculty and residents come from all over the United States and we are fortunate to have many of our graduates involved in many aspects of the teaching program following completion of their training.

The department has been fortunate to win support - and funding - for our plans from the SUNY Downstate leadership and leaders at the department's affiliated clinical practice sites particularly at HHC central and Kings County Hospital Center. The financial commitment they have made (and continue to make) has allowed, among other things, the recruitment of first-rate faculty. We have managed to contain costs by having our faculty practice at multiple locations within our network of affiliated sites. This approach has permitted us to keep faculty fully occupied and challenged while extending the benefits of their special abilities to patients as well as our trainees at several institutions.

Our residency is considered one of the top places to train in the US and certainly one of the best in all of NYC. We are one of the largest programs in NYC and we continue to grow. Kings County remains one of the BEST places in the country to learn ophthalmology and the training takes place in a very new patient care setting with EMR and state-of-the-art equipment.

Our faculty, plus our improved facilities and expanded clinical offerings, have indeed, dramatically increased demand for ophthalmology services. At our largest clinical affiliate, Kings County Hospital Center, outpatient visits have increased by 63 percent since 1996. We relocated to a new modern 9,500 square feet Eye Clinic in Kings County in 2006 due to continued growth of the service. We now see over 30,000 patients annually just at this site.

We have similarly expanded the faculty practice facility at Downstate which is known as The Midwood Eye Center, located at a convenient location on Nostrand Avenue off the junction of Flatbush Avenue. Our Lower Manhattan office (at 150 Broadway) and our Park Slope office (at 185 Montague Street) offer complete diagnosis and management of complicated diseases in addition to in-house oculoplastic treatments.

Our eye research program has also grown in the clinical and translational research area. Known for a long time for excellence in clinical research, we now are deeply committed to the study of various eye diseases at the cellular and molecular level and our PhD scientists are working to develop cures for blinding conditions. Investigators within the Department currently hold research funding from the National Eye Institute and National Science Foundation in addition to funding from the State University of New York. We provide opportunities for ophthalmology residents and medical students to integrate into laboratory and clinical research work for those so inclined. Furthermore, we have been leaders in the formation of the SUNY Eye Institute – a virtual institute which encompasses the academic medical centers in the SUNY system and allows us to cross-train and teach while at the same time share important resources. Many other details of our program are described in various pages of our website.

In summary the Department of Ophthalmology at SUNY Downstate is a leader in providing eye care while expanding knowledge in the field of vision and training the next generation of physicians. I invite you to visit our offices to obtain care or consider coming to Brooklyn for training in Ophthalmology.