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Ophthalmology Chair, Dr. Robert Fechtner

Message from the Chair

Welcome to Ophthalmology at SUNY Upstate Medical University. The Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences consists of our clinical operation, the Center for Vision Care and our research endeavor, the Center for Vision Research.

 COVID – Central New York has largely been spared the worst waves of COVID. As the only academic medical center in our region, Upstate has been a major resource for care, an innovator in developing one of the saliva tests for COVID, and is the home institution for the Principal Investigator for one of the vaccine trials. We continue to take precautions to protect staff and patients from this ongoing public health threat. One consequence is that in-person visits and rotations for students and residents have been limited. We hope our website can give you a sense of who we are.

The Center for Vision Care is the hub of our clinical enterprise. We like to think of our clinical department as a small family. We have a core of seven full-time faculty and a large complement of part-time community and voluntary faculty. Nearly all of the community ophthalmologists in Central New York are voluntary faculty at the Center for Vision Care.  Many of our subspecialty clinics are staffed by voluntary faculty and the residents operate with these highly skilled surgeons in university operating rooms and in the community surgery centers. We are also affiliated with the Syracuse Veterans Administration Health Center, which has a busy clinical and surgical service. As a result, we see an extraordinary variety of interesting and challenging ophthalmologic problems. I believe this provides our residents with a much broader experience than they might otherwise receive. Many of our residents have recently gone on to top-notch fellowships in retina, cornea, oculo-plastic, and glaucoma. It is not uncommon for our residents to remain in Central New York or return to the area after completing their training.

Our department has a long history of community involvement and Syracuse has welcomed refugees from many regions, now including Afghanistan. In addition to the tertiary level sub-specialty care, we are the eye care resource for the diverse immigrant and financially disadvantaged communities. Our close relationships with community subspecialists allow us to contribute to a high level of eye care for the over one million New Yorkers in Central New York, the Southern Tier, and the North Country.

The Center for Vision Research seeks fundamental understanding of vision, from molecules to cells and tissues to visual perception, and to apply this knowledge to finding cures for blindness. The research faculty members include some of the most respected names in ophthalmology who bring a wealth of experience to their work and several young scientists who are starting their research careers and experiencing great success. Our current grant funding places the Department of Ophthalmology in the top 40 NEI funded research centers in the nation. The Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences is honored to have received an Unrestricted Grant from Research to Prevent Blindness, a distinction that is shared with only 37 other university centers in the country and only three others in New York State.

Diversity, inclusion, equity, and justice is at the core of our mission as evidenced by our faculty, leadership, staff, and the patients we serve. We are proud to call ourselves one of the most diverse academic departments on campus, are seeking new talent, and are committed to training the brilliant, diverse faculty of tomorrow.


We hope that you have the opportunity to get to know us in the near 


Robert D. Fechtner, MD, FACS, FARVO

Professor and Chair