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SUNY Downstate Medical Center

Department of Ophthalmology

photo of Doug Lazarro

Douglas R. Lazzaro, MD, FACS, FAAO
Professor and Chairman
The Richard C. Troutman, M.D. Distinguished Chair in Ophthalmology and Ophthalmic Microsurgery

Chairman's Message

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 clinical and research excellence has grown steadily in the last few years and the department 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. In 2014, we have 19 Full time Clinical Faculty representing every subspecialty working at 6 sites throughout the Brooklyn with a new satellite office in Wall Street that opened November 2013.

Many Brooklynites were turning 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. As we have increased the breadth of our faculty practice physicians who now provide every scope of practice within ophthalmology, we have reversed that trend significantly. And we are now serving lower Manhattan with our new location and the patients find this office easily by many modes of transportation.

A cornerstone goal of the department is providing a superior practice environment for our residents-in-training and young faculty, 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 particularly at HHC central and Kings County Hospital Center. The financial commitment they have and continue to make 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.

Our residency is considered one of the top places to train in the US and certainly one of the best in all of NYC. The resident numbers are unsurpassed locally 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 fine 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 in a convenient location on Nostrand Avenue off the junction of Flatbush Avenue. Our 150 Broadway Wall Street office offers complete diagnosis and management of complicated diseases in addition to in-house oculoplastic treatments.

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 have just received a 2,000,000 Empire Innovation Program Grant from SUNY and matched by Downstate to hire 2 high level scientists and we have successfully recruited these doctors who will start their work here August 2014.

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.