The mission of the Department of Ophthalmology and the Cullen Eye Institute is to be a preeminent department in the country in education, research, clinical care, and public service. To achieve this mission, the department provides educational programs for ophthalmology residents and fellows, medical and graduate students, research scientists, and practicing ophthalmologists; supports research in the structure, function, and diseases of the eye and the visual system; provides the highest quality eye care available; and sponsors public programs for prevention of eye disease and injury.
The Department of Ophthalmology comprises 33 full-time clinical and research faculty and 33 voluntary clinical faculty members. Twenty-three full time faculty serve as Baylor Eye physicians and surgeons and participate in patient care and teaching in comprehensive and subspecialty ophthalmology in the Texas Medical Center at the Alkek Eye Center in the Smith Tower, the Scurlock Tower, the Texas Children's Hospital Clinical Care Center, the Neurosensory Center of Houston, The Methodist Hospital, and St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital. Subspecialty patient care includes orbital disease, ophthalmic plastic and reconstructive surgery, corneal disease and surgery, contact lens care, refractive surgery including LASIK, glaucoma, cataract, vitreoretinal diseases and surgery, strabismus and pediatric ophthalmology, neuro-ophthalmology, and low vision care. In addition, faculty provide teaching and assist in patient care at Ben Taub Hospital, Houston Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and community health centers of the Harris Health System.
The department supports multiple programs in vision research, including the pathogenesis, diagnosis, and management of ocular infectious and inflammatory diseases; molecular virology; refractive surgery; cataract; glaucoma; structure, function, and diseases of the retina; ophthalmic genetics; and visual dysfunction in strabismus and amblyopia. The principal areas of clinical research are herpes simplex keratitis, bacterial and fungal keratitis, refractive surgery, glaucoma, cataract, inherited eye disease, age-related macular degeneration, retinal degeneration, infectious retinitis, retinopathy of prematurity, amblyopia, optic neuritis, ocular trauma, and dry eye disease. These research programs are supported by grants from the National Eye Institute, Research to Prevent Blindness, Foundation Fighting Blindness, Retina Research Foundation, Sid W. Richardson Foundation, and private and corporate donations.
Members of the department hold joint appointments in the Departments of Cell Biology, Medicine, Molecular and Human Genetics, Molecular Physiology & Biophysics, Pathology, and Pediatrics; the Divisions of Molecular Virology and Neuroscience of Baylor College of Medicine. The Department is a recipient of a Vision Research Center Grant from the National Eye Institute. Postdoctoral trainees are supported by a National Eye Institute Research Training in Visual Sciences Grant. The Department currently holds eight endowed chairs and professorships.
In 1936, a prominent Houston businessman, Monroe Dunway Anderson, founded the M. D. Anderson Foundation to support his lifetime interests in health and education. Following his death in 1939, the trustees of the Foundation envisioned the creation of a medical center in Houston to consist of many different hospitals, academic institutions, and support organizations. The Trustees arranged a successful referendum election in Houston to purchase 134 acres to establish the Texas Medical Center. The Medical Center subsequently offered land at no cost for development by interested health related institutions.
In 1943, representatives of the Texas Medical Center convinced Baylor University in Waco to move Baylor University College of Medicine from Dallas to Houston. The Department of Ophthalmology was founded that same year with the establishment of the College of Medicine in Houston and Everett L. Goar, M.D., was appointed professor and first chair. Medical student lectures in ophthalmology were initially held in a warehouse building near downtown Houston and clinical teaching was conducted in the private office of Dr. Goar and an eye clinic at Jefferson Davis City-County Hospital. In 1949, the Veterans Administration assumed control of the naval hospital in Houston and the VA Hospital became Baylor's first affiliated hospital. The College moved to the Texas Medical Center in 1947 following the completion of the Roy and Lillie Cullen Building, which included space for teaching, research, and patient care for the Department of Ophthalmology. The Methodist Hospital moved to the Texas Medical Center in 1951 and became the College's major affiliated private adult hospital. The department trained two apprentice ophthalmologists during the period of 1943 to 1953 and, in 1954, established a three-year residency training program in ophthalmology. The program acquired additional teaching facilities following the opening in the Texas Medical Center of Texas Children's Hospital in 1954 and the Ben Taub Hospital of the Harris Health System in 1963.
Dr. Goar retired as chair in 1958 and Louis J. Girard, M.D., was appointed professor and chair. The department moved into new teaching, research, patient care, and administrative facilities in the Jewish Institute for Medical Research on Baylor's East Campus in 1963. In 1969, Baylor College of Medicine separated from Baylor University in Waco and became a private, independent medical school. Dr. Girard resigned as chair in 1970 and David Paton, M.D., was appointed professor and chair in 1971.
In 1969, Baylor College of Medicine and The Methodist Hospital agreed to build a unique health care facility devoted to neurosensory diseases, the Neurosensory Center of Houston. In 1971, the Cullen Foundation, established by Hugh Roy and Lillie Cullen, gave a major gift on behalf of the Ophthalmological Institute of the Neurosensory Center. The fundraising campaign for the center was initiated in 1972. Research to Prevent Blindness, Inc., contributed a major gift and helped direct the planning and fundraising for ophthalmology. The Neurosensory Center and the Cullen Eye Institute were formally dedicated Sept. 25, 1977, and the scientific dedication of the Cullen Eye Institute was held Feb. 22-25, 1978. In 1981, Dan B. Jones, M.D., was appointed chair following the resignation of Dr. Paton.
Through a major gift from Mr. Albert B. Alkek, a Houston philanthropist and member of Baylor's Board of Trustees, the department opened the Alkek Eye Center in the Smith Tower of The Methodist Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine in 1989. The center is the principal outpatient facility for the full-time clinical faculty and is connected by air bridge to the Cullen Eye Institute and the Neurosensory Center. In 1991, the department acquired new clinical facilities in pediatric ophthalmology with the opening of the Eye Clinic of the Feigin Center of Texas Children's Hospital. The completion of two new affiliated public hospitals in the Texas Medical Center, the Ben Taub Hospital in January, 1990, and Houston Veterans Affairs Medical Center in 1991, further expanded the department's facilities and programs for teaching, patient care, and clinical research.