NEI Director to present Community of Scholars seminar

Michael Chiang.

Published November 16, 2022

"Dr. Chiang's work as a pediatric ophthalmologist and a clinician scientist using artificial intelligence and data science is an inspiration for my own work as a CTSI K Scholar."
John Lillvis.

The UB Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) Community of Scholars Seminar Series, which invites speakers to explore topics addressing health disparities and clinical and translational research, presents internationally renowned Michael F. Chiang, MD, Director of the National Eye Institute on Tuesday, December 6. He will present “Artificial Intelligence and Data Science in Medicine: What We Can Learn From Ophthalmology” online via Zoom at 10 a.m. (Register here.)

In 2021, Retina Specialist described Chiang as a physician originally trained as an engineer who took over as the third permanent director of the National Eye Institute — “the largest eye research organization in the world” — after 10 years as associate director of the Casey Eye Institute at Oregon Health and Science University.  

Indeed, the article explained, Chiang’s role at the NEI is “a natural progression for someone who’s witnessed the translation of research from the bench to the clinic. He’s one of the early investigators of telemedicine, biometrics, and artificial intelligence — phrases that resonate much more today than they did when his work started 20 years ago.”

‘An inspiration’ to researchers

Chiang was invited to speak by CTSI K Scholar John H. Lillvis, MD, PhD, Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences — a member of the 2022 CTSI K Scholar cohort.

“We are excited and honored to have Dr. Chiang give one of the Community of Scholars lectures this year,” Lillvis says. “His work as a pediatric ophthalmologist and a clinician scientist using artificial intelligence and data science is an inspiration for my own work as a CTSI K Scholar. I believe that his lecture will be of great interest to anyone doing clinical translational research at UB.“

Margaret M. DeAngelis, PhD, Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, Jacobs School, is a member of the CTSI K Scholar Program Steering Committee and Lillvis’ mentor. She says it is an honor to have Chiang share his thoughts with the scholars and the university community.

“Dr. Chiang holds a top accolade in the vision field as the Director of NIH’s National Eye Institute,” DeAngelis explains. “As a clinician scientist, Dr. Chiang brings intellectual rigor to vision science, coupled with deep compassion for patients. He not only brings expertise in AI and big data and how that can transform improved eye care for all, but also his invaluable experience as mentor, collaborator, and leader. Dr. Chiang truly embodies what all trainees may aspire to when visualizing a role model.”

Working to improve lives

The NEI was established in 1968 to support cutting-edge research projects that investigate new ways to prevent, treat, or reverse vision loss, and to education the public learn about vision problems and how to keep their eyes healthy. In a September 2022 NIH MedlinePlus Magazine feature, Chiang was asked why NEI’s research is important when there have been so many improvements in vision treatment.

“Many Americans need eyeglasses; refractive error is one of the most basic things that can go wrong with vision,” Chiang explained. “But the diseases that can blind people — things like cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic eye disease — those things aren’t as easily reversible, and the risk of those diseases increases exponentially as people get older. This is an enormous public health problem as our entire population gets older.”

The article also touched on Chiang’s advocacy for DEIA (diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility) at NIH, and his passion for reducing health disparities.

“There are many diseases in this country that disproportionately affect certain populations that are the most medically underserved,” he stated. “For example, glaucoma disproportionately affects Black and Hispanic patients. From a delivery-of-care perspective, it’s important to have people in the healthcare system who the patients can truly relate to.”

In addition, Chiang discussed how his work connects with translational research: “I think it’s important to emphasize that at NEI, the research we do is not solely intended to publish papers or to fight diseases. We’re ultimately trying to fight for the people who have those diseases and improve their lives.”

Chiang will speak on the future of translational research in vision science, his own work on AI and data science in ophthalmology, and additional research being done at the NEI during his highly anticipated Zoom presentation on December 6.

For questions about the CTSI Community of Scholars Seminar Series, write to or call 716-829-4718.