School of Medicine recruits new chair of ophthalmology and visual sciences

Douglas RheeAfter an extensive national search, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Center announced they have recruited Douglas Rhee, an accomplished glaucoma specialist, eye surgeon and researcher, to become chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.

Rhee is expected to start in September, and his appointment is expected to become official after the Case Western Reserve Board of Trustees provides its approval. He succeeds renowned cornea specialist Jonathan Lass, who served as department chair for almost two decades.

Rhee has been with Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary since 2005. He is an expert in both adult and childhood glaucomas. He specializes in complex and high-risk cases with an interest in rare clinical syndromes as well as the more common forms of glaucoma.

“Over the years our Department of Ophthalmology has distinguished itself for cutting-edge research that engages faculty across multiple disciplines,” said Pamela Davis, dean of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. “Renowned for his own work in glaucoma, Dr. Rhee understands the ingredients of successful research programs, and possesses the leadership skills and experience to advance initiatives here.”

His scientific research aims to determine the cellular and molecular causes of glaucoma, with an ultimate goal of developing directed gene therapy as a viable treatment. In addition, Rhee’s clinical research interests include evaluating the outcomes of both traditional and novel/advanced surgical procedures to develop new therapies.

“Dr. Rhee is an outstanding clinician, researcher and educator,” said Fred C. Rothstein, president of UH Case Medical Center. “He is an internationally known leader in his field and as chairman he will further enhance our Department of Ophthalmology.”

Between 2007 and 2012, Rhee served in a succession of leadership: medical director of Massachusetts Eye and Ear locations in Stoneham and East Bridgewater; medical director of Strategic Network Development; and associate chief of operations and practice development. In 2009, Rhee became vice president of the Massachusetts Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons. In 2012, he was named president of the Korean American Ophthalmologic Society.

Rhee has received the competitive American Glaucoma Society’s Clinician-Scientist award in 2004 and 2005. In 2008, the American Glaucoma Society honored him again with the Mid-Career Physician-Scientist Award. That same year, he was awarded the competitive RPB Physician-Scientist Award from the Research to Prevent Blindness organization. These awards provided support for his research into eye pressure regulation. His research has been funded by various public and private sources, including the National Eye Institute and Massachusetts Lions Eye Research Fund.

Rhee is an accomplished writer and educator. He has authored, co-authored or edited several books in the field of ophthalmology. In addition, he has published approximately 65 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and co-authored more than 40 book chapters. Rhee first served as a consultant for the Physician’s Desk Reference for Ophthalmology from 1997 for five years and then became its lead medical editor in 2002. He reviews for several ophthalmic journals, and in 2006 began serving as a contributing editor for the trade publication Ocular Surgery News. He has participated on numerous committees developing the medical education content for meetings of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, and the American Glaucoma Society. He also has organized and led numerous regional meetings.

He received his medical degree at the University of Michigan Medical School followed by an internship at the University of Michigan-affiliated Oakwood Hospital (Dearborn, Mich.) and completed his ophthalmology residency at Wills Eye Hospital (Philadelphia), where he also served as co-chief resident. He won a competitive Heed Fellow award and completed a clinical glaucoma fellowship at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute (Miami, Fla.) and a post-doctoral laboratory fellowship at the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health (Bethesda, Md.) investigating the molecular biology of intraocular pressure regulation. He is board certified in ophthalmology.