The 3rd Annual James and Bessie Pappas Lecture in Ophthalmology

(left to right) Dr. Angelo Tanna, Dr. Joel Schuman, and Dr. Nicholas Volpe.

On June 8, members of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine community gathered for the third annual James and Bessie Pappas Lecture in Ophthalmology. This highly regarded annual lecture series was created through the generosity of James and Bessie Pappas in 2014 to help advance scientific education in ophthalmology.

“The Pappas Lecture honors our rich tradition of advancing scientific education,” said Nicholas Volpe, MD, the George S. and Edwina Tarry Professor of Ophthalmology, and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology. “This lecture was established by James and Bessie Pappas not because they are patients, or scientists, but for the good of doing it. They are interested in our method, and with their help we will continue this tradition in perpetuity. There will be a 100th Pappas lecture because of the generosity of this endowment.”

This year’s Pappas lecture was presented by Joel S. Schuman, MD, FACS, who is professor and chair of Ophthalmology at New York University (NYU) Langone Medical Center, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, and professor of Neuroscience and Physiology at the NYU Neuroscience Institute.

The Past, Present, and Future of OCT

Dr. Schuman’s talk focused on optical coherence tomography (OCT), which is a clinical tool used for ocular diagnostics. Dr. Schuman discussed the past, present, and future of OCT, providing details on how the technology was invented and how it is used today. He also outlined possible ways this tool can be used in the future.

“OCT is an example of how an investment in basic research can pay off both economically and in public health. OCT first started as basic research and is now used daily as a clinical tool.” Dr. Schuman continued, citing how software advances with OCT have made it possible to view and assess 3D OCT data, thus allowing doctors to monitor disease progress and responses to therapy.

OCT allows for high-resolution scans of the eye. The advent of OCT in the late 1980s allowed ophthalmologists to use high-speed cameras and lasers to see through tissues and identify blood vessels. Today, OCT is primarily used to monitor glaucoma, diseases of the retina, diabetic retinopathy, and macular degeneration. Dr. Schuman also mentioned that OCT is one of the most rapidly adopted medical technologies—to date, over 60,000 units have been sold.

Dr. Schuman also presented his vision for the future of OCT. Ideally, competition between manufacturers will drive prices and innovation to further advance OCT technology. 

“The Pappas Lecture honors our rich tradition of advancing scientific education. This lecture was established by James and Bessie Pappas not because they are patients, or scientists, but for the good of doing it. ”

- Dr. Nicholas Volpe