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Director's expertise guides new era of vision care

by Cindy Abole
Public Relations

World renowned retinal physician, surgeon, teacher and scientist Lucian V. Del Priore, M.D., Ph.D., has been appointed director of MUSC's Albert Florens Storm Eye Institute (SEI) and Pierre G. Jenkins Professor and chairman of ophthalmology.

Dr. Del PrioreDr. Del Priore

He joins the MUSC faculty after serving as professor of ophthalmology and the first Robert L. Burch III Scholar in Retinal Research at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City.

Del Priore joined MUSC last October following a national search of more than 30 applicants. He succeeds M. Edward Wilson, M.D., who was chairman for 15 years. Since his arrival, he has focused on sharing his clinical expertise, vision research, teaching and entrepreneurial successes to meet SEI's missions for teaching, service and research.

According to Etta Pisano, M.D., vice president for medical affairs and dean of the College of Medicine, Del Priore is committed to MUSC's mission. "We were thrilled to recruit Lucian as chair of ophthalmology and director of SEI. He has had a significant positive impact on the department since his arrival and is clearly committed to its continued growth and development across all of our missions."

Dave Wallace, SEI board of directors chairman, was involved with Del Priore's recruitment. "We found that Dr. Del Priore possessed a good, overall vision for the program. He had high energy and passion and possessed a focus on building relationships and collaboration. He met the right criteria for serving as director, leader salesperson and advocate for SEI."

He has come a long way from his days growing up in New York City as a curious and talented physics graduate student at Cornell University. Del Priore earned his undergraduate degree in physics from Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in 1975. His interest in medicine came from a fascination with the body's visual system and how light is converted by chemical signals in the eye. Following medical school, he returned to Cornell to complete his doctorate in physics.

"What interested me as a physicist is that the eye is a delicate, fascinating and complex organ. Ophthalmology is a fabulous field," he said.

Del Priore relishes his role as teacher and mentor and is guiding and instructing medical students, ophthalmology interns and residents, vitreoretinal fellows and scientists. After all, he taught physics to undergrads while at Cornell and later guided residents at Johns Hopkins Hospital's Wilmer Eye Institute and at other institutions. He'd like to enhance SEI's highly competitive residency training program, which hosts four residency slots in ophthalmology. Working with SEI's residency faculty, the department has added a fellowship in vitreoretinal surgery to reflect the program's clinical and research growth.

Storm Eye
                                          InstituteDr. Lucian Del Priore examines a patient and is joined by SEI ophthalmology residents Drs. Tyson Ward, left to right, Beth Richter and Jennifer Davidson. For information about SEI, visit

"This is an opportunity to identify what's important to each of SEI's programs and discover how each piece supports its overall mission. It's also a good time to see if all the pieces of support are present. Here at MUSC, we have a solid ophthalmology program, well-integrated health system with good physical plant support and a beautiful eye institute with ample space for research and clinical programs," Del Priore said.

As with any new leader, Del Priore's priority is about growth and recruitment. In January, the SEI team recruited George Waring IV, M.D., a cornea, cataract, lens and refractive surgeon; Andrew Eiseman, M.D., a former U.S. Navy ocular plastic surgeon; and trained vision scientists and research colleagues, Mark Fields, Ph.D., and Jie Gong, M.D., Ph.D.

With an emphasis on providing quality patient care, Del Priore is committed to improving the eye health of South Carolinians and expanding clinical services to all patients. Currently, SEI's team of 100 faculty, clinicians and staff treat patients at its main location on MUSC's campus and five SEI locations around the Lowcountry. Providing this level of specialty support at a time of reduced funding, growth of uninsured patients and aging populations will not be easy, but it requires a dedicated commitment, according to Del Priore.

"One of our biggest missions is to provide specialized care for patients with a wide range of eye diseases. It is important that we provide patients with state-of-the-art research and patient care. We can't drop the ball in one or two areas of care across the entire spectrum of eye diseases," Del Priore said.

Del Priore was born in Italy and grew up in New York City. He earned his medical school degree with distinction in research from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in New York in 1982.

He completed his residency and fellowship in vitreoretinal surgery and glaucoma research at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He served on the faculty of Washington University School of Medicine and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey prior to joining the faculty at Columbia University Medical Center. He is a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the Macula Society, the Retina Society, and the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology and International Society for Eye Research. He has received numerous awards including the Lew R. Wasserman Research to Prevent Blindness Merit Award, several honor awards from the American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Society of Retina Specialists and the Vitreous Society and was named among New York's Top Doctors and Best Doctors in America.

Del Priore is a peer reviewer for the American Journal of Ophthalmology and other journals and has been published extensively in peer-review literature. He serves on several scientific advisory boards and lectures worldwide on the treatment of retinal diseases.

Del Priore leads NIH-funded research, advanced discoveries

Storm Eye Institute (SEI) Director Lucian Del Priore, M.D., Ph.D., will lead the strategic expansion of the institute's National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded research programs to cure eye diseases and disorders. SEI is home to South Carolina's largest research faculty in ophthalmology and is among the country's top 20 eye research institutes. It also is recognized for NIH research grant productivity and funding ($3.8 million in fiscal year 2011). As the only Level 1 eye trauma service in the state, SEI supports a variety of ophthalmic care. Areas of vision research include glaucoma, pediatric ophthalmology, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and other retinal disorders and diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a genetic eye disease that eventually results in vision loss has no known cure.

A specialist in retinal disease, glaucoma and vitreoretinal surgery, Del Priore has developed surgical techniques for improving the wet form of AMD, which accounts for about 90 percent of all blindness caused by this disease. He and his team are working on improving treatments to control the leaking of blood vessels under the retina. The team is exploring solutions that replace the abnormal retinal pigment epithelial tissue layer using newly transplanted cells that can adhere to the eye's sub-retinal tissue layer known as Bruch's membrane.

Del Priore, who holds several patents, is among five ophthalmic specialists across the country who are testing a retinal implant to restore limited sight to RP patients. Del Priore has tested an implant, which is part of the Argus II Retinal Stimulation System produced by Second Sight Medical Products. The device features a small camera, electrodes and a module to stimulate light processing cells and send signals to the brain via the optic nerve. In fall 2009, Del Priore and his team successfully implanted this artificial retina device in a 50-year-old New York patient who lost her sight from the disease at age 13. Already approved by the European drug authority for implantation, the team is awaiting approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

Del Priore's research team is funded by the Foundation Fighting Blindness, Research to Prevent Blindness and other organizations.

Del Priore also is recruiting for a new SEI vice chairman of research, a post formerly occupied by Craig E. Crosson, Ph.D., who is now senior associate dean for research in the College of Medicine. Rosalie K. Crouch, Ph.D., Distinguished University Professor of Ophthalmology, currently serves as interim research director.



Friday, March 16, 2012

The Catalyst Online is published weekly by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. The Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to The Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.