Robert D. Fechtner, MD, joins Upstate as Empire Scholar and to lead Ophthalmology Department

Robert D. Fechtner, MD, joins Upstate as Empire Scholar and to lead Ophthalmology Department

Fechtner’s goal at Upstate is to advance the department’s capacity inclinical care, clinical and discovery research, medical education andaccess to care. He will accomplish this by working with the university’sleadership and by strengthening collaborations with local and globalpartners.

Top on his list of objectives is to grow his department’s clinicalresearch enterprise, making the university a national test site for someof the newest generations of medications, devices and treatmentregimens for disorders of the eye.

He says that a strong clinical research enterprise for the departmentwill help to recruit world-class vision scientists to the universityand to Central New York. “This move will ultimately benefit patients andenhance medical education for Upstate’s students and residents inophthalmology,” said Fechtner.

“World-class vision specialists are attracted to sites that arestructured to conduct clinical trials,” said Fechtner. “We are fortunatein Central New York to have dedicated vision specialists who are top intheir fields,” he says, “however, that number needs to grow to meet thepresent and future demands of our patients in all sectors of society.The level of vision care available in Central New York is alreadyexcellent. Our focused effort recruiting clinician scientists willcomplement this existing community of vision specialists and add tothose numbers. Most importantly, new faculty will also bring with themnew procedures and technologies to advance the care we provide ourpatients.”

He says that he will build on “what is a tremendous residenteducation program” by exposing the department’s residents to a greaternumber of specialty and subspecialty fields of vision care. “Ourresidents are the future of ophthalmology and we want to make sure thatfuture is bright and secure,” he says.

Upstate’s Ophthalmology Department is the university’s second highestfunded clinical department in discovery work. “Our biomedicalresearchers are internationally recognized and respected for theirinvestigations into the visual system,” said Fechtner. “We will continueto search for new avenues of funding to ensure that their innovativework continues without interruption. We will also investigate how we cantranslate their research findings into medical application.”

As the leader of the World Glaucoma Association, Fechtner is workingto increase the number of ophthalmologists who practice this specialtyto meet the ever-growing demand for this service. “There is a high rateof glaucoma in the nation,” he says, adding that 1 in 100 people in thenation have glaucoma. It numbers 1 in 10 for those aged 80 or older.

He envisions Central New York as a site for world-class glaucomacare. “One way to accomplish this is by participating in clinical trialswhere our patients can be among the first in the nation to try the nextgeneration of therapies and technologies to treat this blindingcondition. He also says that this can be accomplished by increasing thenumber of glaucoma specialists who practice at the university and inCentral New York and by expanding biomedical research studies intoglaucoma.”

Fechtner comes to Upstate from Rutgers, New Jersey Medical School,where he was professor of ophthalmology and director of its GlaucomaDivision and Glaucoma Diagnostic Laboratory. His clinical and researchinterests include the mechanisms of optic nerve damage in glaucoma,psychophysical testing of visual function, computer assisted imagingtechnologies, and ocular pharmacology. He has published more than 100articles, book chapters and monographs and holds editorial positionswith several leading journals. He recently received the Life AchievementHonor Award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology, one of only 27ophthalmologists nationwide to receive this honor.

Fechtner received his MD from the University of Michigan School ofMedicine and completed post-graduate studies at Mount Sinai MedicalCenter and Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He completed aFellowship at New England Medical Center; served as a Research Fellow inGlaucoma at Montefiore Medical Center; and was a Fellow in Glaucoma atthe University of California under a grant from the National Institutesof Health.

Upstate’s Ophthalmology Department is comprised of the UniversityVision Care and Research Centers. The Center for Vision Care is a fullservice ophthalmology center serving the communities of Central NewYork. Since its inception in 1997, the Center for Vision Research hasbeen supported by extramural research funds in excess of $24 milliondollars from private foundations and government agencies.

Caption: Robert D. Fechtner, MD, joined Upstate  this fall asan Empire Innovation Scholar and to headthe university’s OphthalmologyDepartment as professor and chair,clinician, researcher and educator.

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