September 30, 2009
Endowed Professorships Honor Two U-M Kellogg Eye Center Faculty
ANN ARBOR, MI - Julia E. Richards, Ph.D., ophthalmic genetics expert, has been named the Harold F. Falls Collegiate Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and endocrinologist, Terry J. Smith, M.D., has been named the inaugural Frederick G.L. Huetwell Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.
Julia E. Richards, M.D.
Dr. Richards investigates the genetics of eye disease. Her research group has identified gene mutations that cause glaucoma as well as the genes that cause nail-patella syndrome and posterior polymorphous corneal dystrophy. She has made significant discoveries about the molecular genetics of juvenile-onset glaucoma, which can lead to loss of peripheral vision and eventual blindness. Dr. Richards is currently involved in a collaborative project called NEIGHBOR that is scanning a half million genetic markers in an effort to identify genes that cause adult-onset primary open-angle glaucoma, one of the most common causes of significant vision loss.
Dr. Richards earned her bachelor's degree in microbiology from the University of Washington and received her doctorate in genetics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Her postdoctoral work in microbiology, immunology, and human genetics was performed at Stanford with Dr. Patricia Jones and at the University of Michigan with Dr. Francis Collins and Dr. Wesley Dunnick. She joined the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Michigan in 1990.
The Harold F. Falls Collegiate Professorship was established in 2003 to honor U-M ophthalmologist, Harold F. Falls,M.D., who is considered to be the putative father of medical genetics in this country.
Terry J. Smith, M.D.
Terry J. Smith, M.D., an endocrinologist who has broken new ground with research on Graves' eye disease, or thyroid eye disease, has advanced our understanding of the process by which this disease causes inflammation of tissue surrounding the eye. Patients with Graves' eye disease may experience severe swelling and bulging eyes, which, in advanced cases, can lead to loss of vision. Dr. Smith plans to evaluate several promising therapeutic agents that he has identified through his research.
Dr. Smith and colleagues have described the molecular mechanisms underlying this autoimmune disease process. Among Dr. Smith's seminal discoveries are the identities of antibodies that circulate and interact with specific receptors located in the orbital tissue of patients with Graves' eye disease. These mechanisms are fundamental to the way in which the immune system attacks orbital tissue in Graves' eye disease. Building on these findings, Dr. Smith and colleagues at the Kellogg Eye Center will investigate novel diagnostic methods and unique therapies to assess and interrupt the disease process, with the expectation of launching clinical trials in the near future.
Dr. Smith received his medical degree from the University of Missouri School of Medicine and completed his residency at the University of Illinois in Chicago and Sinai Hospital in Baltimore. He completed fellowships in biophysics at the University of California School of Medicine, San Francisco, and in clinical endocrinology at the Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Chicago.
The Frederick G.L. Huetwell Professorship was established in 2008 as a gift from U-M alumnus, Detroit businessman, and philanthropist, Frederick G.L. Huetwell.
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Written by Betsy Nisbet