UAB Medicine News


Letter from Rett and Dr. Girkin

The year 2017 was one of major milestones for the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and Callahan Eye Hospital. The annual report from the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research ranked UAB Ophthalmology No. 6 in the country for National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding. This is up substantially from No. 17 in the previous year and makes UAB Ophthalmology the fastest growing department in the nation over the past five years. UAB’s total annual National Eye Institute research funding exceeded $11 million in 2017, making the UAB vision research community one of the largest research programs in the country.

This meteoric rise was the objective of our Vision of Excellence (VOE) program, which we launched in 2012 with collaborative investments from the UAB School of Medicine, the Eyesight Foundation of Alabama, and the International Retinal Research Foundation. With the support of these donors and other philanthropic partners, this initiative has far exceeded our goals and has spurred transformative growth in our clinical enterprise and translational science and research efforts.

Our jump into the top 10 for NIH funding represents a nearly fivefold increase in research funding since 2012, when NIH grants totaled just $1.6 million per year. This establishes UAB Ophthalmology as the fastest growing ophthalmology department in the country in terms of NIH support. This growth is due to the dedicated work of our faculty, which has expanded from 29 when the VOE program was launched to 49 in 2017. This expansion will further enhance our mission to provide comprehensive training to the next generation of ophthalmologists, recruit and retain world-class scientists to expand our cutting-edge research programs, and deliver high-quality care across all subspecialties.

Meanwhile, Callahan Eye Hospital’s surgical caseload has grown dramatically alongside an ambulatory clinic volume that has nearly doubled during the past five years. This was accomplished, in part, by more than doubling the number of ambulatory clinics to 15 convenient locations across northern Alabama.

We are proud to be a nationally recognized leader in vision research, and we are delighted with the progress we continue to make, as it reflects the commitment we established over 50 years ago to preserving and restoring global eye health. It is exciting to see that vision continue to come into focus.

Thank you for reading Perspective. The work showcased in this 2017 annual report represents just a sample of the excellence and innovation taking place in our clinics, classrooms, and laboratories.


Rett Grover, MSHA, MBA
Interim Chief Executive Officer
UAB Callahan Eye Hospital

Christopher A. Girkin, MD, MSPH, FACS
EyeSight Foundation of Alabama Chair
UAB Department of Ophthalmology

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