Message From the Chair

Over the past 150 years, the Department of Ophthalmology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center has been at the forefront of most major advances in vision care. Today, we stand poised to transform the field yet again, as our specialty converges around a revolutionary concept called Precision Ophthalmology.™  Defined as customized genetic, diagnostic, and translational clinical care, Precision Ophthalmology™ uses each patient’s own genetic profile to tailor a course of treatment specifically designed for them. 

This approach aims to correct “nature’s errors” and to cure disorders that have impacted human beings for as long as we can remember. To create these individualized treatments, we are merging previously disparate bodies of scientific knowledge ranging from molecular and cellular biology to imaging, bio-informatics, and genomics in a team approach to medicine that combines the innovation of our researchers, the talents of our basic scientists and the clinical skills of our physicians. 

Our integrative Precision Ophthalmology™ approach is already bearing fruit. One of our many world-renowned researchers is currently using translational genetics to study the way the eye is formed, as shown in the video produced by Columbia University Medical School External Communications. Other investigators are collaborating to unlock the genetic basis of myopia and retinal degenerations, and to use these insights to develop novel therapies to prevent disease progression. Our glaucoma scientists are combining novel insights into the cellular causes of this disease to propose new diagnostic and therapeutic paradigms. 

We have launched a major Clinical Trials Unit to speed progress of new therapies based on these and other discoveries. In addition, several of our laboratories have combined to genotype over 800 patients with retinitis pigmentosa and juvenile macular degeneration. Our researchers are now awaiting FDA approval for gene therapy approaches to restore these patients’ sight and peace of mind. Such breakthroughs in vision science will empower our patients, both young and old, to live much more fulfilling lives. Thanks to our place within Columbia University, one of the world’s leading institutions for medical research, and our partnership with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, ranked sixth in the nation and the top hospital in New York, our Department of Ophthalmology is uniquely positioned to realize the full potential of Precision Ophthalmology.™

Within the pages of our two publications, Precision Ophthalmology (2016) and Precision Ophthalmology 2020: Applied Genetics(2019), you will learn how we are unlocking the potential of Precision Ophthalmology™ to assess disease risk among our patients, to develop and deploy fine-tuned protocols, and to restore vision. Precision Ophthalmology™ allows us to take a true patient-specific approach to vision care, diagnosing and treating eye disorders that affect large populations, but at a highly personalized, individual level. It is the ophthalmology of tomorrow, and we are excited to be bringing it to our patients today. 

G.A. (Jack) Cioffi, MD
Edward S. Harkness Professor
Jean and Richard Deems
Professor Chairman, Department of Ophthalmology