Joan W. Miller, MD, honored with prestigious awards for retina research

May 7, 2018
Joan W. Miller headhsotChair of Harvard Ophthalmology will receive the 2018 Charles L. Schepens, MD/AAO Award and the Gertrude D. Pyron Award at upcoming meetings

Joan W. Miller, MD, the David Glendenning Cogan Professor and Chair of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School and the Chief of Ophthalmology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Massachusetts General Hospital, will receive two prestigious awards recognizing her significant contributions to the fields of retina and ophthalmology—the 2018 Charles L. Schepens, MD/American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) Award and the Gertrude D. Pyron Award of the Retina Research Foundation.

A resident of Winchester, Mass., Dr. Miller is the first woman to receive the Charles L. Schepens, MD/AAO Award, which recognizes vision scientists who have contributed new knowledge of the visual process of vitreoretinal diseases and/or have made special contributions to prevent and decrease blindness. The nominee is selected by a committee with representation from the key professional societies in retina and is co-sponsored by the Retina Research Foundation (RRF) and the Schepens International Society (SIS) in honor of Dr. Charles Schepens, the founder of modern retinal surgery and training. Dr. Miller will receive the award and deliver the Charles L. Schepens Lecture at the American Academy of Ophthalmology Annual Meeting’s Retina Subspecialty Day on October 26, 2018.

Independently, Dr. Miller was also selected by the American Society of Retina Specialists (ASRS) as the recipient of the Retina Research Foundation 2018 Gertrude D. Pyron Award—awarded to outstanding vision scientists whose work contributes significantly to knowledge of the retina. The award is named in honor of Gertrude D. Pyron, an eminent geologist who admired the leadership in vision science of RRF President and Scientific Director, Dr. Alice McPherson. Dr. Miller will receive the award and present the 23rd Annual Gertrude D. Pyron Award Lecture at the American Society of Retina Specialists annual meeting on July 22, 2018.

“Dr. Miller’s selection as the 2018 recipient of both awards is unique and is a testament to her outstanding contributions and leadership,” said Dr. McPherson. “Dr. Miller is a pioneer whose innovation has improved the outlook for millions of people around the world afflicted with blinding retinal diseases.”

“I am very honored to be recognized with two such distinguished awards,” said Dr. Miller. “The enormous contributions of Dr. Schepens to the fields of retina and ophthalmology inspire all of us who continue to explore the causes of blinding diseases so that we can improve the lives of patients around the world.”

Dr. Miller is an internationally recognized expert on retinal disorders, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Over the last two decades, Dr. Miller and her colleagues at Mass. Eye and Ear/Harvard Medical School pioneered the development of photodynamic therapy using verteporfin (Visudyne®), the first approved pharmacological therapy able to reduce and slow vision loss in patients with AMD. The group also identified the key role of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in ocular neovascularization, leading to the development of anti-VEGF therapies now administered to millions of adults and children with sight-threatening retinal diseases annually around the world.

For their role in the development of anti-VEGF therapy for retinal disease, Dr. Miller and her colleagues were honored with the 2014 António Champalimaud Vision Award — one of the highest distinctions in ophthalmology and visual science. Dr. Miller continues her research on innovative therapies for retinal disease.

In 2002, Dr. Miller became the first woman physician to be appointed Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School and, in 2003, she became the first woman ever appointed chief at Mass. Eye and Ear and chair at Harvard Medical School. Among her numerous honors, she is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and the Academia Ophthalmologica lnternationalis and has authored more than 200 original research articles and 80 book chapters, review articles and editorials.

Dr. Miller and her husband John live in Winchester, Mass. John, a construction attorney, specializes in domestic and international engineering procurement and public-private partnerships in global infrastructure. Their eldest son, John, is a graduate of MIT and University of Michigan Medical School and is Director of Retinal Imaging at Mass. Eye and Ear and an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. Their second son, Douglas, graduated from Harvard College, where he was co-captain of the Harvard basketball team; he now works in construction management and is a Vice President of Schernecker Property Services in Waltham, Mass. Daughter, Mary graduated from Harvard College and University of Michigan Law School, and works as an associate at Kirkland & Ellis LLP in Washington, DC.