Info For Ophthalmology Referrals

Ophthalmology USN

The Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences delivers state-of-the art care to patients, participates in clinical research trials, and teaches the next generation of health care providers. Our comprehensive clinical services range from basic exams to specialty diagnosis and care for complex problems, including diabetic retinopathy, ocular melanoma, and blinding eye diseases.

We offer a full–range of ophthalmologic services including specialized adult and pediatric clinics in neuro-ophthalmology and genetics. Affordable genetic testing for inherited and rare eye diseases is available, including offering the most clinically relevant information to physicians, patients and families. We also offer convenient laser vision correction, a vision rehabilitation service as well as a contact lens clinic and optical shop.

UI Leads IIH Treatment Study

Dr. Kwon examines a patient

The causes and treatment of idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) are not well understood, even as this condition afflicts a growing number of Americans. Now, University of Iowa neuro-ophthalmologists are leading a multi-center, National Eye Institute-funded study to establish evidence-based treatment strategies and identify the causes of IIH.

The IIH Treatment Trial is currently enrolling participants with papilledema due to IIH. The study compares the efficacy of the diuretic drug acetazolamide with placebo in reversing vision loss in patients who also receive weight loss counseling. Patients recently diagnosed with IIH who have vision loss are eligible to participate.

The study offers a weight loss and lifestyle counseling program and vision testing to all participants. Investigators will follow patients for up to four years, using cerebrospinal fluid pressure, visual field, and quality of life assessments.

A second aim of the study is to identify genetic and other risk factors for IIH. Investigators will focus particular attention on genes associated with obesity.

IIH typically occurs in women of child-bearing age who experience weight gain. Patients usually experience severe, daily headaches and most also have vision loss. Both medical and surgical treatments are available, but scientific evidence of their effectiveness is lacking. The IIH Treatment Trial addresses this gap in medical knowledge.

The IIH Treatment Trial is an initiative of the Neuro-Ophthalmology Research Disease Investigator Consortium (NORDIC). In addition to the UI, nearly 50 other sites collaborate in the study. The genetic research component is performed by the UI Institute for Vision Research’s Molecular Ophthalmology and Glaucoma Cell Biology Laboratories.

E-mail study coordinator Kathryn Sherman or call 319-356-3775.

E-mail study principal investigator Reid Longmuir, MD, or call 319-356-1951.

E-mail study director Michael Wall, MD, or call 319-353-6942.

Detailed information about the IIH Treatment Trial is available at NORDIC’s web site.

Clinical Focus

Genetic Counseling

Tiffany Grider, MS, CGC, provides genetic counseling to patients and families in the Pediatric Ophthalmology and Vitreoretinal Diseases and Surgery clinics. A certified genetic counselor, Ms. Grider works with individuals and families with inherited eye disorders, helping them understand the nature of their disorders, inheritance patterns and risks for future children, and testing options. Her services are available through referral by Department faculty. For information, contact the Pediatric Ophthalmology Service at 319-356-2859.

New Faculty Boost Clinical Services

The Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences is increasing its capacity in key subspecialty areas with the arrival of new faculty members. Elliott Sohn, MD, joined our Retina Service with a focus in vitreoretinal surgery and retinal detachment repair. Matthew Thurtell, MSc, MBBS, will join our Neuro-Ophthalmology Service, providing treatment and consultation in all areas of neuro-ophthalmology; he has a special interest in eye movement disorders.


Our broad-based research efforts include collaborative projects with investigators across medicine and in biomedical and electrical engineering, computer science, education, liberal arts, public health, and law. We are home to two Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators Val Sheffield and Ed Stone and with world–renowned research programs in macular degeneration and the genetics of blinding eye diseases.

We successfully compete for grant funding from the NIH, Department of Veterans Affairs, private foundations, and individual donors.

Laboratories and Research Facilities

Glaucoma treatment and research have been a part of the Department since the 1950s when Mansour F. Armaly, MD, joined the faculty as the first glaucoma service director. Iowa's glaucoma genetics laboratory continues to investigate the molecular pathogenesis of the disease. Efforts in the lab led to grant of nearly $3.6 million by the National Institutes of Health to study the genetics and disease processes involved in glaucoma.

The Department and Optherion, Inc. opened a new corporate and academic research facility where cutting–edge diagnostic tools will be developed by Optherion to treat and prevent age–related macular degeneration and other chronic diseases.

Robert F. Mullins, PhD, associate professor of ophthalmology, has been invited to serve as a member of the Biology and Diseases of the Posterior Eye Study Section of the National Institutes of Health Center for Scientific Review.

Recent Eye Research Highlights

UI ophthalmology researchers will investigate objective methods of testing visual dysfunction in patients with brain injuries or cognitive impairment. Randy Kardon, MD, PhD, professor and director of neuro-ophthalmology, leads the U.S. Department of Defense-funded study.

Budd Tucker, PhD, assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the UI, garnered a National Institutes of Health Director's New Innovator Award to study the use of stem cells to treat blinding eye diseases. The five-year, $1.5 million grant allows Tucker to develop new technologies to treat retinal degenerative diseases. Tucker is the first UI faculty member to receive this award.


For nearly 20 years, the UI Ophthalmology department has been a top–ranked service by U.S.News & World Report. Our department has physicians listed on the Best Doctors® database. Our department has been recognized in 2009 Ophthalmology Times Best Programs survey as one of the best programs in the country, including fifth in Best Overall, fourth in Best Residency, fourth in Best Clinical (Patient Care), and sixth in Best Research.

  • Chris Johnson, PhD, professor, and Michael Wall, MD, professor, were selected as 2009 Silver Fellows by the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.
  • The Foundation Fighting Blindness awarded Edwin Stone, MD, PhD, professor of ophthalmology and director of the Carver Family Center for Macular Degeneration, with a multi–year grant of $1.47 million to study autosomal recessive retinitis pigmentosa (RP) with the longterm goal of developing effective treatments for the disease. Other UI investigators involved include Nasreen A. Syed, MD, assistant professor of ophthalmology and pathology, and Wallace L.M. Alward, MD, professor of ophthalmology, were honored by the American Academy of Ophthalmology for their special contributions to the Academy and field of ophthalmology.
  • The American Board of Ophthalmology elected H. Culver Boldt, MD, of ophthalmology and director of the ocular echography service to its Board of Directors.
  • Iowa KidSight, a joint project of Lions Clubs of Iowa and the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, helped Lions Clubs International Foundation celebrate reaching its goal of providing free eye screenings for 1 million preschool children since 1999.
  • Wallace L. M. Alward, MD, Frederick C. Blodi Chair in Ophthalmology, department vice chair and professor of ophthalmology, delivered the distinguished Robert N. Shaffer Lecture at the 2008 AAO Joint Meeting.