Dr. Yeh named to research role in ophthalmology

Steven Yeh, MD

Steven Yeh, MD, Stanley J. Truhlsen Endowed Chair and director of retina and uveitis at the Truhlsen Eye Institute, has been named the vice chairman of clinical and translational research in the UNMC Department of Ophthalmology.

Ronald Krueger, MD, director of the institute, announced the appointment earlier this summer, calling Dr. Yeh a campus leader in research.

Dr. Yeh, who joined UNMC in 2021, said he shared Dr. Krueger’s vision for the institute’s research program – a vision of collaboration with other academic departments, as well as private industry, to strengthen a research portfolio he already regards with excitement about its future potential. 

Dr. Yeh, a researcher and principal investigator on a National Institutes of Health-funded global eye health program dealing with Ebola and other emerging infectious diseases that impact the eye, pointed to other active clinical trials at the Truhlsen Eye Institute with numerous investigators, including:

  • A trial of gene therapy for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration;
  • A trial related to uveitis and ocular immunology using a novel therapeutic that targets a specific protein for inflammation of the eye; and
  • Other programs exploring novel drug delivery for ocular tumors and biologic agents for thyroid eye disease.

“I hope to grow our portfolio, because research gives patients another avenue and path forward, especially when they have a disease that is incompletely studied,” he said. “There are some unique opportunities for growth and understanding of therapies.”

He praised the institute’s regional and national strength and focus.

“We have research programs that we hope will be valuable to the broader scientific community, region and the nation, and a number of our programs in global health are growing. Our Ebola/emerging infectious disease program has expanded, as we’ve recently been recipients of a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) grant with the American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (ASHA) Program for Vision Health System Strengthening.”

The USAID-funded ASHA grant is a public diplomacy initiative that offers not only new research opportunities, he said, but also the potential to understand new systems of care, effective health efforts and how best to deploy educational efforts globally and nationally.

Another emphasis in his new role is translational research, he said.

“While much of our work has been based in clinical ophthalmology, it’s important that we continue to explore the translational aspects of research that will allow us to understand mechanisms of disease and new therapeutic targets. This may be accomplished through work with molecular scientists looking at sequencing of ocular fluids within the eye and immunologists in the assessment of ocular inflammatory responses.”

Current research collaborators also include the UNMC College of Public Health and the Child Health Research Institute, and Dr. Yeh will focus on extending what he called the institute’s “spectrum and portfolio of research” to other university partners, as well.

“One of my goals is related to our work with the Global Center for Health Security – for instance, how can we develop systems of care that can be modeled in other settings?

“In Sierra Leone, for instance, to perform research we needed to build a vitreoretinal surgical system. Before that was developed, there was no retina surgery platform in the country. We needed that capability to be able to understand the pathogen-host responses in the vitreous where inflammation may occur and damage the eye.

“Now, having developed the system, the next step is to expand the surgical system of care to other countries that have unmet needs. One of my goals related to our work within other resource-limited settings is how we can leverage these systems of care as a model for other countries and regions of the world.”

Dr. Yeh said he is excited to explore new, interprofessional research collaborations.

“It starts with leadership, both within the Truhlsen Eye Institute and across the campus,” he said. “From the time that I met Dr. Krueger, I knew that he had a vision for global, regional and community health. When I talked with other leaders on campus – Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, Dr. Christopher Kratochvil and the leadership of Global Center Health Security – their strong vision for the future really resonated with me.

“We all work hard. But if you can work hard with people that you enjoy collaborating with, and continue to move the ball forward to do impactful things, it can culminate in an exciting and rewarding team journey.”

5 comments

  1. Ronald Krueger says:

    Dr. Yeh is the right man for the job, and will expand our regional, national and global presence in clinical and translational research!

  2. Charles Fritch, M.D. says:

    Dr. Yeh-Congratulations !!- Charles D. Fritch, M.D. FACS

  3. PF says:

    Excited for the future because of initiative like this! Well done, Dr Yeh

  4. Karla Mace says:

    Dr. Yeh – Congratulations!

  5. Jamie Rudd says:

    Congratulations Dr. Yeh. So well deserved. You are a great asset to the department of ophthalmology and UNMC.

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