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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 in clinical care, clinical and discovery research, medical education and access to care. He will accomplish this by working with the university’s leadership and by strengthening collaborations with local and global partners.

Top on his list of objectives is to grow his department’s clinical research enterprise, making the university a national test site for some of the newest generations of medications, devices and treatment regimens for disorders of the eye.

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

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

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

Upstate’s Ophthalmology Department is the university’s second highest funded clinical department in discovery work. “Our biomedical researchers are internationally recognized and respected for their investigations into the visual system,” said Fechtner. “We will continue to search for new avenues of funding to ensure that their innovative work continues without interruption. We will also investigate how we can translate their research findings into medical application.”

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

He envisions Central New York as a site for world-class glaucoma care. “One way to accomplish this is by participating in clinical trials where our patients can be among the first in the nation to try the next generation of therapies and technologies to treat this blinding condition. He also says that this can be accomplished by increasing the number of glaucoma specialists who practice at the university and in Central New York and by expanding biomedical research studies into glaucoma.”

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

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

Upstate’s Ophthalmology Department is comprised of the University Vision Care and Research Centers. The Center for Vision Care is a full service ophthalmology center serving the communities of Central New York. Since its inception in 1997, the Center for Vision Research has been supported by extramural research funds in excess of $24 million dollars from private foundations and government agencies.

Caption: Robert D. Fechtner, MD, joined  Upstate  this fall as an Empire Innovation Scholar and to head the university’s Ophthalmology Department as professor and chair, clinician, researcher and educator.