Penny Asbell Named Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Director of the Hamilton Eye Institute at UTHSC

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Dr. Penny Asbell

Penny A. Asbell, MD, FACS, MBA, FARVO, has been named chair of the Department of Ophthalmology in the College of Medicine and Director of the Hamilton Eye Institute at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC).

Dr. Asbell comes to UTHSC from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS) in New York, where she is a professor of Ophthalmology and director of the Cornea Service and of the Cornea Clinical and Research Fellowships, which she initiated. She is the vice chair of the ISMMS Appointment and Promotion Committee, medical director of the Faculty Practice for Ophthalmology, and system vice chair for Academic Affairs for the Department of Ophthalmology.

She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago and her MBA as valedictorian from the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College in New York. She obtained her medical degree from the State University of New York. Dr. Asbell completed her postdoctoral training at Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut., Louisiana State University Eye Center in New Orleans, and New York University Medical Center, in New York. She also completed the Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine Program at Allegheny University of the Health Sciences.

“Dr Asbell is an internationally renowned master clinician and corneal surgeon from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City,” said UTHSC Chancellor Steve Schwab, MD. “She has a distinguished academic and research career, and we are very pleased we have been able to attract her to UTHSC. She brings both proven leadership skills, as well as surgical and research abilities to us here in Memphis.”

Dr. Asbell’s research areas of interest focus on pharmaceuticals, devices and surgical procedures including new treatments for dry eyes, ocular herpes, corneal infections, Excimer laser surgery, cross-linking, and more with extensive experience in clinical trials that have led to FDA approved treatments and to defining standard of care for ocular diseases.

Dr. Asbell is an accomplished scholar and lecturer. She founded the Ocular Inflammatory Biomarker Laboratory at Mount Sinai and is committed to discovering minimally invasive biomarkers to better diagnose ocular disease and provide more personalized treatment. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society, the Cornea Society, the Eye Bank for Sight Restoration, Program Committee – Cornea for the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, and is currently the Deputy Editor of Eyewiki (sponsored by the American Academy of Ophthalmology) and Editor in Chief of Eye and Contract Lens. She has written or co-authored more than 200 scholarly articles during her career.

In May,the New England Journal of Medicine published the main results of the National Institutes of Health-funded study, Dry Eye Assessment and Management (DREAM© ) Study, of which Dr. Asbell is study chair.

Dry eye disease, which affects approximately 14 percent of adults in the United States, causes ocular discomfort, fatigue, visual disturbances, pain, and irritation that affects quality of life. When medical care costs are combined with productivity loss, the annual cost of dry eye disease to the U.S. economy is over $55 billion. Dr. Asbell’s study determined that oral omega-3 is no better than placebo in relieving signs and symptoms of dry eye disease. In this randomized controlled trial of over 500 participants from 27 sites across the U.S, The DREAM© study will provide extensive information to better understand this chronic and common eye problem.

Dr. Asbell will assume both roles on August 1.