Boston (Feb. 13, 2013)--Joan Whitten Miller, M.D., Henry Willard Williams Professor of Ophthalmology and Chair of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, and Chief of Ophthalmology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Massachusetts General Hospital, has been elected to the Academia Ophthalmologica Internationalis (AOI).
The AOI is regarded as the most prestigious international academic organization in ophthalmology with an emeritus and active membership that spans 33 countries.
Dr. Miller is only the second American woman to be elected to the 38-year-old organization, which limits active membership to 70 individuals.
As a university-centered organization, the AOI is "committed to excellence in education, research and culturally appropriate medical services to preserve and restore vision for people of the world."
The AOI counts among its membership some of the most acclaimed ophthalmologists worldwide, including: David W. Parke II, M.D., President of the American Academy of Ophthalmology; Martine J. Jager, M.D., past President of the Association for Vision in Research and Ophthalmology; Alfred Sommer, M.D., M.H.S., Board of Directors Chair of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation; and Paul R. Lichter, M.D., M.S., current AOI President.
"It's truly humbling to be in the company of such an elite group of academicians, all of whom have dedicated their careers to shifting the landscape of eye health around the globe," noted Dr. Miller. "I'm excited and honored to contribute my expertise to AOI's global mission to bring hope and sight to people around the world."
The AOI originated with the Act of Foundation signed March 7, 1975, and its statutes and regulations were approved on April 10, 1976 by a vote from 45 Charter Members at the inaugural meeting in Ghent, Belgium.
Eligible candidates who meet the Academia's high standards of scholarly excellence are formally nominated and elected by other members to fill vacant chairs. Members are expected to actively engage in improving world ophthalmology.
"This is among the highest honors conferred in the field of ophthalmology and is a fitting tribute to Dr. Miller and her astonishingly productive career." said President and CEO of Mass. Eye and Ear, John Fernandez. "Her contributions to the field of ophthalmology have turned the tide on some of our most egregious battles in the war on blindness, particularly in the field of angiogenesis and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). We consider ourselves very fortunate to have her - a clinician and scientist of the highest caliber - leading our efforts here at Mass. Eye and Ear.
"Dr. Miller has pushed the frontiers of understanding to improve the lives of patients," said HMS Dean Jeffrey S. Flier. "I am pleased that the AOI has recognized Dr. Miller's leadership in translational research, which is central to the mission of Harvard Medical School."
Over the last two decades, Dr. Miller and her colleagues at Harvard Medical School/Mass. Eye and Ear pioneered the development of photodynamic therapy (PDT) using verteporfin (Visudyne®), the first pharmacologic therapy for AMD able to reduce and slow vision loss. The group also identified the importance of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in ocular neovascularization, forming the scientific basis of current antiangiogenic therapies for neovascular AMD.
Today, these treatments are saving the sight of millions of people worldwide. Dr. Miller and her colleagues continue investigations to elucidate the molecular pathophysiology of vision loss and develop improved therapies for retinal disease. Dr. Miller's current clinical and research interests focus on retinal disorders, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy.
Dr. Miller has published more than 130 peer-reviewed papers, 50 book chapters and review articles, is co-editor of the third edition of Albert and Jakobiec's Principles and Practice of Ophthalmology, and is a named inventor on nine U.S. patents and five Canadian patents. She has received numerous awards, including the Rosenthal Award and Donald J. Gass Medal of the Macula Society, the Retina Research Award from the Club Jules Gonin, the Alcon Research Institute Award, the ARVO/Pfizer Ophthalmic Translational Research Award, the Founder's Award from the American Society of Retinal Specialists, the Suzanne Veronneau-Troutman Award from Women in Ophthalmology, the Paul Henkind Memorial Award from the Macula Society, the Senior Achievement Award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and the Certificate of Honour from the European Association for Vision and Eye Research.
Dr. Miller was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and is a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Medical School. She completed her ophthalmology residency and a vitreo-retinal fellowship at Mass. Eye and Ear. In addition to her professorship and leadership roles at Harvard Medical School and Mass. Eye and Ear, Dr. Miller is the director of the Angiogenesis Laboratory and a vitreo-retinal physician in the Retina Service at Mass. Eye and Ear.
She is the first female physician promoted to the rank of Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, and the first woman to serve as chair of the Department of Ophthalmology.
Dr. Miller and her husband John live in Winchester, MA. John, a construction attorney, specializes in domestic and international engineering procurement and public-private partnerships in global infrastructure. The eldest of three children, their son John is currently an ophthalmology resident at Harvard Medical School. Their son Douglas is a 2010 graduate of Harvard College, where he was co-captain of his college basketball team; he now works in construction management for Schernecker Property Services. Daughter Mary graduated from Harvard College in 2011, and is working as a paralegal for the law firm Harkins Cunningham LLP in Philadelphia.
About Massachusetts Eye and Ear
Mass. Eye and Ear clinicians and scientists are driven by a mission to find cures for blindness, deafness and diseases of the head and neck. After uniting with Schepens Eye Research Institute in 2011, Mass. Eye and Ear in Boston became the world's largest vision and hearing research center, offering hope and healing to patients everywhere through discovery and innovation. Mass. Eye and Ear is a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital and trains future medical leaders in ophthalmology and otolaryngology, through residency as well as clinical and research fellowships. Internationally acclaimed since its founding in 1824, Mass. Eye and Ear employs full-time, board-certified physicians who offer high-quality and affordable specialty care that ranges from the routine to the very complex. U.S. News & World Report's "Best Hospitals Survey" has consistently ranked the Mass. Eye and Ear Departments of Otolaryngology and Ophthalmology as top five in the nation. For more information about life-changing care and research, or to learn how you can help, please visit MassEyeAndEar.org.