News Releases

February 5, 2002

Emory Ophthalmology professors offer undergraduate teaching

(ATLANTA) An Emory University undergraduate course, “Biology of the Eye,” is quite possibly the only undergraduate offering taught by Emory University School of Medicine (SOM) professors. The offering gives the Emory Department of Ophthalmology the distinction of offering a course where students signing up for Biology 475 will actually be taught by SOM ophthalmology professors.

In the five years that the course has been offered, it has gained enrollment, and in fact, has been a quite popular course among both undergraduates and several graduate students in molecular biology. Cited in course evaluations as “refreshing” and “interesting,” the course draws on the expertise of various researchers in ophthalmology to teach in their respective areas.

Thus, students are exposed to many of the Ophthalmology Department’s researchers, and as one happy student exclaimed, “It’s like going to a new class every time.” The Eye Center not only offers the course teachers, but also provides the meeting space for the class—in its Calhoun Auditorium in the South Clinic’s tunnel level. In fact, students meet in the same auditorium where Grand Rounds for ophthalmology residents are held.

“This is a course that will last a lifetime,” says course creator and director Henry F. Edelhauser, the Sylvia M. and Frank W. Ferst Professor of Ophthalmology and director of the Eye Center’s research program. “These students learn everything about the eye—from embryology to diseases, conditions, and surgery options. They also come away knowing what to look for in a good eye exam,” he says.

Currently, there are 36 full-time students enrolled with two students auditing the class. Teaching Assistant Nicholas Kiefer (class of 2003) was a student himself, just last year. He plans on a career as a physician. “It was great to interact with all the different ophthalmology professors, and it was really interesting to learn about the various ophthalmic issues as an undergraduate biology major. I particularly liked how specialized the course was, especially for an undergraduate course.”
“This course is a great recruiting ground for future physicians and researchers,” says Thomas M. Aaberg, Sr., chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and director of the Emory Eye Center. “We are pleased to be able to offer this service to the University while at the same time potentially impressing these young students with the importance of the field of medicine and ophthalmology.”

The students seem to appreciate the diversity of faculty too, says Edelhauser. Some 20 researchers and other professionals in the Department of Ophthalmology teach in their particular fields of expertise, something the students seem to appreciate. The course begins with an overview of the eye, common vision problems, ocular anatomy and embryology. It then progresses to focus on the lens, cornea, infections, vision correction (refraction) including refractive surgery, and explores more detailed anatomy, glaucoma, ocular pharmacology and the retina. The final classes deal with diseases of the retina, eye muscles, neuro-ophthalmology, electrophysiology, pathology and low vision (vision strongly impaired by refractive errors or disease, requiring special helps in restoring useable vision).

A recent class, “Evolution of the Eye,” taught by Machelle T. Pardue, PhD, not only provided detailed, comparative anatomy of the eye with other animals and insects, it even touched on the philosophical, addressing the mystification with which Charles Darwin held the complexity of the eye.

Media Contact: Joy H. Bell

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