The University of Southern California (USC) Eye Institute has recruited 12 physician scientists from some of the world’s leading institutions, specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide spectrum of vision disorders.

The recruitment is part of an overarching growth strategy that anticipates increased demand in eye care services. According to the National Eye Institute, more than 65 percent of Americans 40 years or older suffer from some sort of vision impairment – ranging from near- or far-sightedness to blindness. That number is expected to swell as the population ages.

Each physician recruit contributes expertise in a unique area of specialization, expanding the depth and breadth of services offered at the USC Eye Institute in ocular oncology, glaucoma, orbit and oculo-facial reconstructive surgery, cornea and external diseases, refractive surgery, neuro-ophthalmology, pediatric ophthalmology, adult strabismus and retinal diseases.

Most of the new physicians also boast a multi-cultural pedigree.

“Los Angeles patients represent a diverse, multicultural population and require more than a ‘one-size-fits-all’ health care approach,” said Tom Jackiewicz, senior vice president and CEO of USC Health. “At Keck Medicine of USC, we take a more personalized patient-centered approach. We welcome patients from all backgrounds, and we are proud to hire specialists who mirror that diversity.”

The institute’s new hires include Hossein Ameri, MD (retinal diseases and degeneration); Jesse L. Berry, MD (ocular oncology); Charles W. Flowers, Jr., MD (cornea, cataract and refractive surgery); Veronica L. Isozaki, OD (complex contact lens care); Andrew A. Moshfeghi, MD, MBA (retinal diseases); Arlanna Moshfeghi, MD, MPH (pediatric ophthalmology); Vivek R. Patel, MD (neuro-ophthalmology and adult strabismus); Alena Reznik, MD (glaucoma); Grace Richter, MD, MPH (glaucoma); Damien C. Rodger, MD, PhD (retinal diseases and uveitis); Jonathan Song, MD (corneal disease, cataract and refractive surgery) and Sandy X. Zhang-Nunes, MD (oculo-facial plastic surgery). Andrew and Arlanna Moshfeghi, Richter and Rodger are scheduled to begin seeing patients in 2015.

The Department of Ophthalmology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC began seeing patients in 1974. As the cornerstone of the department, the USC Eye Institute celebrates its 40th anniversary in June 2015 as an internationally recognized center of excellence in vision research, clinical care and education.

“The USC Eye Institute is pioneering the development of novel treatments for eye diseases that cause vision loss and contributing critical scientific knowledge to advance the field of ophthalmology,” said Carmen A. Puliafito, MD, MBA, dean of the Keck School and professor of ophthalmology. “This can only be done successfully by organizations like USC that emphasize the importance of integrating research, patient care and education.”

Over the past four decades, USC Eye Institute faculty members have received international acclaim for their contributions to vision research and patient care, including the development of optical coherence tomography, a non-invasive imaging technique used to diagnose glaucoma and retinal disorders, and the Baerveldt glaucoma implant, the world’s most widely used glaucoma implant. USC Eye Institute physician scientists developed the only commercially available retinal prosthesis to restore vision to those blind from retinitis pigmentosa and a long-term ocular drug delivery pump for the treatment of diabetic eye disease and macular degeneration. The USC Eye Institute also is one of the leading eye centers in the world studying the burden of vision loss and its impact on quality of life among vulnerable populations such as children and minorities.

“I am extremely pleased to welcome the new faculty hires, and it is my privilege to lead this extraordinary group going forward,” said Rohit Varma, MD, MPH, director of the USC Eye Institute and professor and chair of ophthalmology at the Keck School of Medicine. “We hope to bring several more talented academic physicians on board within the next year, but I believe we are well-positioned to build on all of our strengths and continue to innovate, develop and fulfill our collective mission of providing the highest quality of patient-centered care.”

by Alison Trinidad