Ophthalmic Pathology

Ophthalmic Pathology is the sub-specialty of Pathology and Ophthalmology that focuses on diseases of the eye and its neighboring tissues.

Ophthalmic pathologists study tissues excised by Ophthalmologists to provide a precise diagnosis of the disease. The diseased tissue is examined macroscopically (gross examination) and by light microscopy. Other techniques, such as immunohistochemistry, molecular testing, and electron microscopy are also sometimes employed. The diagnosis of the disease plays an important part in patient care. Ophthalmic pathologists are able to provide the practicing ophthalmologist with a tissue diagnosis and with information about the cause, pathogenesis and prognosis of ocular diseases.

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Ophthalmic pathologists are a vital component of academic medical centers because of their comprehensive knowledge about diseases of the eye. By teaching ophthalmologists and trainees in ophthalmology (residents and medical students), they contribute to the maintenance of high quality eye care. Numerous ophthalmology training programs exist in the USA. The importance of ophthalmic pathology in education was recognized in a recent editorial by John G. Clarkson titled "Ophthalmic Pathology. Important Now and in the Future" (Archives of Ophthalmology 127:1050-1051, 2009). Aside from the diagnostic and teaching aspects of ophthalmic pathology, ophthalmic pathologists contribute to furthering knowledge about eye diseases through research.

Many individuals have an interest in ophthalmic pathology and different degrees of knowledge on the subject. At present, no organization provides board certification in ophthalmic pathology. However, to issue reports on pathologic tissue in the USA, certification by the American Board of Pathology or by the American Board of Ophthalmology with fellowship training specifically in ophthalmic pathology is needed.

Most ophthalmic pathologists are employed by hospitals that specialize in diseases of the eye or major tertiary care medical centers, such as Duke University Medical Center. Duke University Medical Center Department of Pathology has two Pathologists with expertise in ophthalmic pathology (Alan D. Proia, MD, PhD and Thomas J. Cummings, MD.)

Ophthalmic Pathologists who perform experimental studies present their scientific findings at meetings of societies such as the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, the International Society for Eye Research and at the Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology.



Alan D. Proia, MD, PhD    My clinical interests are eye pathology and autopsy pathology.  My research interests are broad and current projects focus on ocular and systemic manifestations glycogen storage diseases and the pathogenesis of age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and open-angle glaucoma.  These latter three eye diseases are the leading causes of blindness in developed countries, including the USA.

Thomas J. Cummings, MD, Professor of Pathology, and Professor of Ophthalmology, has active clinical and research interests in the following areas: Ophthalmic pathology (eye tumors, pathology of the optic nerve); neuropathology (brain tumors, neural tube defects, peripheral nerve and skeletal muscle pathology); orthopaedic pathology (bone and soft tissue tumors); leprosy involvement of the eye, peripheral nerve, bone, and soft tissues; and, general surgical pathology.

Alan D. Proia, MD, PhD, Thomas J. Cummings, MD
Alan D. Proia, MD, PhD

Alan D. Proia, MD, PhD


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