SUNY Downstate Medical Center
Department of Ophthalmology
Douglas R. Lazzaro, MD, FACS, FAAO
Professor and Chairman
The Richard C. Troutman, M.D. Distinguished Chair in Ophthalmology and Ophthalmic Microsurgery
The Department of Ophthalmology has a well-established history of accomplishment as an educator of physicians, and one that also holds enormous promise for making eye care more available to the Brooklyn community. The program's reputation as a center of research excellence has blossomed in the last few years as has the clinical service, which provides state-of-the-art care to the borough's residents. In assessing the potential of our ophthalmology program in Brooklyn, a 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. This paucity of ophthalmologists has historically motivated many Brooklynites to turn to Manhattan physicians for eye care, as evidenced by the fact that 30 to 40 percent of ophthalmology patients treated in Manhattan live in Brooklyn. At the same time, a large portion of the Brooklyn population receives no ophthalmology care at all. We have increased the breadth of our faculty practice physicians who now provide every scope of practice within ophthalmology.
These facts point to both an opportunity and an urgent need. A goal that has been attained promoted Brooklyn as a practice environment for faculty physicians and residents-in-training, stressing the borough's many attractions as a place to build a career. A commitment to find ways in which our department can provide desperately needed care for the many community residents with glaucoma, retinopathy of diabetes, and other disorders that are potentially blinding or that otherwise diminish their quality of life has been met with enthusiasm. Our faculty and residents come from all over the United States and we are fortunate to have many graduates of the program involved in many aspects of the teaching program after completing 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. The financial commitment they made has allowed, among other things, the recruitment of first-rate faculty, and we have managed to contain costs by spreading their expertise around. For example, single individuals are made responsible for each of the six subspecialty programs network-wide, and many faculty rotate among the sites. This approach has permitted us to keep faculty fully occupied and challenged while extending the benefits of their special abilities to patients at several institutions. Additionally, we have purchased advanced diagnostic technologies in all subspecialty areas allowing for the management of complex disease. In 2010, we have added additional faculty in Retina and Oculoplastics who will work both at Downstate in the faculty practice and at Kings County with the residents.
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 have similarly expanded the faculty practice facility at Downstate which is known as The Midwood Eye Center, located in a convenient location on Nostrand Avenue off the junction of Flatbush Avenue.
Our eye research program has vastly grown in the basic science 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 level and our PhD scientists are working feverishly to find cures for eye diseases. We currently have National Eye Institute grants in addition to extramural grant funding. We have integrated ophthalmology residents and medical students into laboratory work for those so inclined to pursue such efforts. Furthermore, we have been leaders in the formation of the SUNY Eye 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 - and their positive results - are described in various areas of the website.