Cornea specialist to head ophthalmology at UIC

Mark Rosenblatt

Dr. Mark Rosenblatt, new head of ophthalmology and visual sciences. Photo: Joshua Clark/UIC Photo Services

Dr. Mark Rosenblatt, a clinician-scientist who studies regeneration of the cornea, has been named head of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of Illinois College of Medicine effective Oct. 26, pending approval of the University Board of Trustees.

Before joining UIC, Rosenblatt was director of the Margaret M. Dyson Vision Research Institute and vice chair of ophthalmology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, where he helped the department triple the size of its faculty and added a clinical site.

“Dr. Rosenblatt’s contributions to our understanding of corneal nerve regeneration, as well as his establishment of innovative models for investigating corneal nerves, have been remarkable, and he has demonstrated superb clinical, educational and administrative skills,” said Dr. Dimitri Azar, dean of the UIC College of Medicine and professor of ophthalmology, bioengineering and pharmacology.

“I am confident that he will lead the department of ophthalmology and visual sciences into a new era of outstanding education, research and clinical care.”

Rosenblatt’s practice focuses on laser vision correction surgery and the treatment of cataracts and corneal disease. His research into new techniques for regenerating lost or damaged corneal nerves and tissue using stem cells has received extensive funding, including grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, the New York Stem Cell Initiative, and the Tri-Institutional Institute for Stem Cell Biology.

In addition to his work on neural repair in the eye, he is developing techniques to convert skin stem cells into corneal epithelial stem cells as a treatment. Corneal epithelial stem cell deficiency can be caused by chronic dry eye, long term contact lens use, or trauma. The tissue that makes up the cornea — the transparent layer that covers the iris, or colored part of the eye — is produced continuously by these stem cells. Without a sufficient population of corneal epithelial stem cells, the cornea can degrade and lose clarity, causing profound vision loss.

At UIC, Rosenblatt will continue his research and care for patients with cataracts and corneal disease. His primary focus for the department as its new head will be on innovation.

“Clinical care is often based on breakthroughs that happen in the lab, and I want to ensure that that kind of translational work is fostered within the department,” Rosenblatt said. He anticipates hiring new faculty and staff to support that goal, including faculty with strengths in bioengineering.

Rosenblatt earned his medical degree with Alpha Omega Alpha honors and a doctorate in biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Miami School of Medicine. He completed a medical internship at Mount Sinai Medical Center and a three-year ophthalmology residency followed by a two-year cornea fellowship at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston. He recently earned an executive MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business.

He has received a Joint Clinical Research Center Fellowship and a clinician-scientist training award funded by the National Eye Institute and has published numerous papers and book chapters and presented at national and international academic meetings. He is the cornea section editor for the Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology Journal and serves on the editorial board of Investigative Ophthalmology and Vision Science.