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Joan O'Brien sitting at deskWelcome to the annual edition of Scheie Vision. In the midst of great uncertainty and many challenges, our Department has made critical advances this past year, with remarkable progress in research, education, patient care, and community service – all of which you can read about in this issue.  

 

This year, the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) required us to make changes in each of these areas to keep our Department and our community safe. Through careful adherence to safety and PPE guidelines, as well as innovation by Department leaders, we have been able to continue providing outstanding patient care at higher than pre-COVID levels, while maintaining social distancing in waiting areas, elevators, and hallways. In this issue, you can read about what to expect at your next in-person appointment at Scheie, and learn more about the Department’s approach to telemedicine. 

 

Our researchers continue to make groundbreaking developments, with several also conducting research on COVID-19. In this edition, we highlight three innovative studies on retinal ganglion cells, which are increasingly being considered as a target for precision therapy for glaucoma and other retinal diseases. We also feature a cross-departmental project with Daniel Yoshor, MD, who recently joined UPenn as the Chair of the Department of Neurology. Dr. Yoshor’s research utilizes a visual cortical prosthetic that employs dynamic brain stimulation, allowing blind and sighted patients to “see” shapes. You can also read about how Zujaja Tauqeer, MD, DPhil, a second-year resident, helped to improve the Scheie wet lab for generations of residents to come.  

 

Our faculty and staff are committed to providing safe, effective care to all of our patients. In 2020, our physicians saw 112,617 patient visits and performed 2,191 surgeries. We share the story of one of these patients—Hilda Friedman, a 96-year-old visual artist who has donated several of her paintings to be displayed in waiting areas at Scheie. You can also read about the inspiring journey of Tracy Minish, a NASA employee with retinitis pigmentosa. After seeking out genetic testing at Scheie, Tracy formed a close relationship with Jean Bennett, MD, PhD, who has devoted her career to finding a cure for patients with inherited retinal degenerations. 

 

Finally, we highlight our mission to provide support to underserved populations throughout Philadelphia. As the pandemic paused in-person gatherings, the Penn Center for Low Vision Rehabilitation’s Vision Loss Support Group moved to a virtual platform. Although the group could not meet in person, members still came together virtually to support and encourage one another.  

 

I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all members of the Scheie community as we continue to navigate these challenging times. The courageous efforts of our faculty, staff, trainees, and patients have allowed us to preserve and advance the missions of the Scheie Eye Institute. I hope you will find inspiration as you read through these articles, and I wish you all a safe and healthy holiday season. 

 

Sincerely,

Joan O’Brien, MD

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