Joan W. Miller, M.D., receives Howe Medal from American Ophthalmological Society

May 29, 2018
Joan W Miller official head shot

Celebrated award honors distinguished achievements in ophthalmology

Boston, Mass. — Joan W. Miller, M.D., the David Glendenning Cogan Professor and Chair of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School and Chief of Ophthalmology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Massachusetts General Hospital, has been named the 2018 recipient of the celebrated Lucien Howe Medal from the American Ophthalmological Society (AOS) for her distinguished service to the fields of retina and ophthalmology. Dr. Miller received the Medal on May 19, 2018 at the AOS annual meeting held in Dana Point, California.

Dr. Miller is an internationally recognized expert on retinal disorders, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Over the last two decades, she and her colleagues at Mass. Eye and Ear/Harvard Medical School pioneered the development of photodynamic therapy using verteporfin (Visudyne®), the first approved pharmacological therapy able to reduce and slow vision loss in patients with neovascular (wet) AMD. The group also identified the key role of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in ocular neovascularization, leading to the development of anti-VEGF therapies now administered to millions of adults and children annually with sight-threatening retinal diseases around the world.

A resident of Winchester, Mass., Dr. Miller is only the fifth woman to receive the Howe Medal in the award’s nearly 100-year-old history. She is also the first ophthalmologist from the Boston area to receive the award since the 1960’s, when it was given to the late Dr. W. Morton Grant (1968), and Dr. Paul A. Chandler (1967), both at Mass. Eye and Ear, who are widely considered the founding fathers of modern glaucoma care.  First awarded in 1922, the Howe Medal is international in scope and has recognized some of the most influential ophthalmologists in the last century, among them Frederick H. Verhoeff, Jonas S. Friedenwald, Ida Mann, and David G. Cogan. 

“This has been quite a year for Dr. Miller, who was also awarded the Gertrude Pyron Award from ASRS and the Charles Schepens lecture from the AAO. She exemplifies the very best of academic, clinical and research leadership in ophthalmology,” said John Fernandez, President of Mass. Eye and Ear. “We are so pleased that the AOS has recognized her among the giants in our field.”

“The Howe Medal is a tremendous honor and I am humbled to be counted among such ophthalmology luminaries,” said Dr. Miller. “While we’ve made great progress in recent decades to advance treatments for blinding retinal diseases, my colleagues and I continue to work towards a day when every child born will enjoy a lifetime of vision.” 

For their role in the development of anti-VEGF therapy for retinal disease, Dr. Miller and her colleagues were honored with the 2014 António Champalimaud Vision Award — one of the highest distinctions in ophthalmology and visual science. Dr. Miller continues her research on innovative therapies for retinal disease.

In 2002, Dr. Miller became the first woman physician to be appointed Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School and, in 2003, she became the first woman ever appointed chief at Mass. Eye and Ear and chair at Harvard Medical School.  Among her numerous honors, she is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and the Academia Ophthalmologica lnternationalis and has authored more than 200 original research articles and 80 book chapters, review articles and editorials.  

About Massachusetts Eye and Ear 
Massachusetts Eye and Ear, founded in 1824, is an international center for treatment and research and a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. Specializing in ophthalmology (eye care) and otolaryngology-head and neck surgery (ear, nose and throat care), Mass. Eye and Ear clinicians provide care ranging from the routine to the very complex. Also home to the world's largest community of hearing and vision researchers, Mass. Eye and Ear has pioneered new treatments for blindness, deafness and diseases of the head and neck. Our scientists are driven by a mission to discover the basic biology underlying these conditions and to develop new treatments and cures. In the 2017-2018 "Best Hospitals Survey," U.S. News & World Report ranked Mass. Eye and Ear #1 in New England for eye (#4 in nation) and ear, nose and throat care (#2 in nation).For more information about life-changing care and research at Mass. Eye and Ear, please visit our blog, Focus, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

About Harvard Medical School Department of Ophthalmology
The Harvard Medical School (HMS) Department of Ophthalmology (eye.hms.harvard.edu) is one of the leading and largest academic departments of ophthalmology in the nation. More than 400 full-time faculty and trainees work at nine Harvard Ophthalmology affiliate institutions, including Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Schepens Eye Research Institute of Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Joslin Diabetes Center/Beetham Eye Institute, Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System, VA Maine Healthcare System, and Cambridge Health Alliance. Formally established in 1871, the department has been built upon a strong and rich foundation in medical education, research, and clinical care. Through the years, faculty and alumni have profoundly influenced ophthalmic science, medicine, and literature—helping to transform the field of ophthalmology from a branch of surgery into an independent medical specialty at the forefront of science.