History and Notable Achievements


University of Michigan Regents establish the Department of Ophthalmology. We are the 4th oldest department in the country.


Department Chair, F. Bruce Fralick, M.D., initiates a formal research program within the department.


Department resident, Harold F. Falls, M.D., begins the work that will establish him as the undisputed leader of ophthalmic genetics. In 1941, the University of Michigan establishes its Heredity Clinic, the first in the nation. Upon finishing his residency, Dr. Falls becomes a faculty member in our department, with a joint appointment in the Heredity Clinic.


The Department makes a commitment to basic research with the appointment of Mathew Alpern, Ph.D., as its first full-time research faculty member. Dr. Alpern would become one of the world's foremost experts in color vision.


The Department collaborates with the local Lions Clubs to establish the Michigan Eye Bank, which provides donor tissue to patients who are in need of a corneal transplant.


The Kellogg Eye Center opens its doors, consolidating under one roof clinics, laboratories, and offices that had been scattered among seven buildings throughout the medical campus.


Dr. Mathew Alpern is elected to the National Academy of Sciences.


Kellogg resident, Ron Kurtz, M.D., discovers that the ultrafast laser has potential for eye surgery. The concept is developed in collaboration with the University's Center for Ultrafast Optical Science. Prototype lasers are built and tested. By the end of the decade, IntraLase, Corp. is formed to market the ultrafast laser for LASIK surgery. Other ophthalmic applications continue to be investigated.


Paul R. Lichter, M.D., serves as the Centennial President of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.


Debra A. Thompson, Ph.D., clones the first retinal pigment epithelium-specific disease gene. RPE65 is responsible for an early and severe retinal degeneration that causes childhood blindness.


The Eye Center launches one of the first federally certified eye gene testing services in the country. The Ophthalmic Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory also offers genetic counseling.


Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., long-time faculty member and founder of the UM Retinal and Macular Degeneration Center, appointed Director of the National Eye Institute.


Radha Ayyagari, Ph.D. reports that RPGR, a gene normally associated with retinitis pigmentosa, also causes a form of early-onset macular degeneration.


Kellogg is ranked as one of the best ophthalmology programs in the U.S. News & World Report survey of medical specialties.

Kellogg faculty implant miniature telescopes in the eyes of patients with age-related macular degeneration to improve sight.


AMD Family and Genetic Study Group achieves an enrollment of 2100 individuals representing 1500 families who provide blood samples and family history to help scientists isolate disease-causing genes.

Anand Swaroop, Ph.D. and colleagues identify two new chromosomal locations where they expect to find genes associated with age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Mark W. Johnson, M.D. enrolls patients in a study to test the effectiveness of rhuFab, a drug that shows promise for treating the wet form of age-related macular degeneration. In June, 2006, the FDA approves the drug under the name Lucentis for wet AMD. The drug was successful in stopping loss of vision; it also improved vision for those who received it soon after developing the disease. 

Kellogg Cornea Service acquires an IntraLase FS laser for LASIK surgery. Other Kellogg scientists, some of whom were involved in the original research, begin to study the potential of the femtosecond laser for cornea transplants and glaucoma surgery.


Plans for the expansion of the U-M Kellogg Eye Center are announced. The new facility is to be located immediately northwest of the current Kellogg research tower, and will replace operating rooms and eye care clinics located in two buildings adjoining the tower. New space is needed to serve a rapidly aging population and to advance research on eye disease and treatments. Two upper floors will house the Delores S. and William K. Brehm Center for Diabetes Research, which seeks to accelerate the search for a cure for diabetes.


In June, U-M Regents approve architectural plans for the Eye Center expansion and Brehm Center. In September, University and Health System leaders, faculty, staff, and friends gather for Groundbreaking for the combined Brehm Center and Kellogg Eye Center expansion.

Scientists at the Kellogg Eye Center and in London reported on the successful transplantation of rod precursors in the retinas of blind mice. The technique, shown to restore visual function in the mice, was based on a novel approach developed in the laboratory of Anand Swaroop, Ph.D., to tag rod precursor cells and prepare them for transplantation. The transplanted cells survived and were integrated into the retina, in part,  because they were introduced at a particular stage of development, previously described in the Swaroop lab.


Kellogg scientists, Victor M. Elner, M.D., Ph.D., and Howard R. Petty, Ph.D., report on a new imaging device designed to serve as an early warning for eye disease and diabetes. The camera-like instrument captures images of the eye to detect metabolic stress and tissue damage that occur before the first symptoms of disease are evident. 

Alan Sugar, M.D., leads the Kellogg arm of the NEI’s Cornea Donor Study. The study concludes that the pool of cornea transplant donors, often limited to those 65 years of age and younger, should be expanded to include donors up to 75 years of age.

A pilot program is launched to study the use of the ultrafast or femtosecond laser in performing full thickness corneal transplants.  Shahzad I. Mian, M.D., cites several potential advantages for patients, including faster recovery of vision and stronger wound construction. The study is called the Femtosecond Laser Assisted Keratoplasty study, or FLAK.

Victor M. Elner, M.D., Ph.D., is installed as the Ravitz Foundation Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. With Dr. Elner’s appointment, the Foundation gives recognition to the dual disciplines of ophthalmology and pathology.


John Heckenlively, M.D. reports that patients with a rare blinding retinal disease—autoimmune retinopathy—saw improved vision after taking drugs to suppress their immune systems.

A study by Terry Smith, M.D. and Raymond Douglas, M.D., Ph.D. shows that the drug rituximab is effective in treating patients with severe Graves' eye disease. The drug was prescribed for patients who did not respond to steroids, a standard treatment.


The U-M Kellogg Eye Center expansion is dedicated on April 23, with university leaders and keynote speakers Paul Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., and Gail Wilensky, Ph.D. To mark the Dedication, the Department hosts a major conference featuring 20 leading ophthalmologists from around the world.

  • 2012: Under a new grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, our faculty will evaluate why some children do not receive follow-up care after failed vision screenings. Researchers will also analyze data on the incidence and prevalence of strabismus and amblyopia and will seek to improve vision care for premature babies.
  • 2013: The Center of International Ophthalmology was established to coordinate our international clinical and research activities, encouraging the exchange of knowledge and best practices globally.
  • 2014: Kellogg retina surgeons perform the first four surgeries in the United States to implant an artificial retina, or "bionic eye," since FDA approved the device in 2013. This device provides rudimentary vision for patients with retinitis pigmentosa.
  • The Advanced Therapy Program was created to accelerate the translation of basic science breakthroughs into effective therapies for patients. The initial focus is on developing new gene therapies for retinal dystrophies, especially those affecting the sight of children and young adults.


  • George E. Frothingham, M.D. 1872 - 1889
  • Flemming Carrow, M.D. 1889 - 1904
  • Walter R. Parker, M.D. 1904 - 1932
  • George Slocum, M.D. 1932 - 1933
  • F. Bruce Fralick, M.D. 1933 - 1968
  • John W. Henderson, M.D., Ph.D. 1968 - 1978
  • Paul R. Lichter, M.D. 1978 - 2012
  • Paul P. Lee, M.D., J.D. 2012

Endowed Professorships

  • Skillman Professorship in Pediatric Ophthalmology (1984)
  • F. Bruce Fralick Chair of Ophthalmology (1988)
  • Paul R. Lichter Professor of Ophthalmic Genetics (1990)
  • Harold F. Falls Collegiate Professorship (2003)
  • Ravitz Foundation Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences (2008)
  • Frederick G.L. Huetwell Professor in Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences (2009)
  • Edward T. and Ellen K. Dryer Inaugural Career Development Professor in Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences (2010)
  • Helmut F. Stern Career Development Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences (2010)
  • Terry J. Bergstrom Collegiate Professor for Resident Education in Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences (2011)
  • Bartley R. Frueh, M.D. and Frueh Family Collegiate Professorship in Eye Plastics and Orbital Surgery (2013)
Last Modified: Wednesday, 22-Oct-2014 09:52:44 EDT