John Kempen, M.D., MPH, Ph.D., M.H.S.

Harvard Medical School

Professor of Ophthalmology

Massachusetts Eye and Ear

Director of Epidemiology for Ophthalmology
Senior Scientist

Research Summary

An internationally renowned academic ophthalmologist and researcher specializing in inflammatory disorders of the eye (a specialty which is unrepresented in sub-Saharan Africa including South Africa), Dr. Kempen’s research focuses on the safety and effectiveness of treatments for ocular inflammatory diseases and ocular infectious diseases, particularly those related to HIV/AIDS. He also is active in identifying factors predictive of unfavorable outcomes of these diseases, which might be modifiable to avoid bad outcomes, or might alter current clinical management of these patients. Major topics of interest include evaluation of the long-term risks of immunosuppressive therapy, comparison of alternative treatment paradigms for the treatment of uveitis, development of new treatments for non-infectious scleritis, trachoma, management of cataract in developing countries, solutions for the problem of uncorrected refractive error in developing countries, and management of patients with AIDS and cytomegalovirus retinitis.

To learn more, download his CV [PDF].

Current Projects

Major current studies with collaborators include the Systemic Immunosuppressive Therapy for Eye Diseases (SITE) Cohort Study, which has demonstrated that immunosuppression with antimetabolites or cyclosporine does not increase the risk of mortality over a median of 5-7 years’ follow-up; and the Multicenter Uveitis Steroid Treatment (MUST) Trial, which has demonstrated systemic therapy with corticosteroids and immunosuppression when indicated has superior visual outcomes to fluocinolone acetonide implant therapy over seven years, while incurring fewer local ocular side effects and minimal systemic side effects. Dr. Kempen  also is active in developing ophthalmology research and clinical infrastructure  in developing countries, and has completed a preliminary evaluation of fluorometholone 0.1% as an ancillary treatment to prevent relapse of trachomatous trichiasis after lid rotation surgery (which had favorable results). Dr. Kempen is engaged in additional international research in India and Ethiopia regarding ophthalmic epidemiology and trachoma research. At Mass. Eye and Ear, he collaborates with the faculty around statistical design and epidemiological aspects of the department's research.

Selected Publications

Kempen JH*, Daniel E, Dunn JP, Foster CS, Gangaputra S, Hanish A, Helzlsouer KJ, Jabs DA, Kaçmaz RO, Levy-Clarke GA, Liesegang TL, Newcomb CW, Nussenblatt RB, Pujari SS, Rosenbaum JT, Suhler EB, Thorne JE. Risk of overall and cancer mortality among patients with ocular inflammation treated with immunosuppressive therapy: retrospective cohort study. BMJ. 3: 339, Jul 2009. *Corresponding Author

Writing Committee for the Multicenter Uveitis Steroid Treatment (MUST) Trial and Follow-up Study Research Group, Kempen JH,* Altaweel MM, Holbrook JT, Sugar EA, Thorne JE, Jabs DA. Association Between Long-Lasting Intravitreous Fluocinolone Acetonide Implant vs Systemic Anti-inflammatory Therapy and Visual Acuity at 7 Years Among Patients With Intermediate, Posterior, or Panuveitis. JAMA. 317(19):1993-2005.  2017 May 16. Notes: *Corresponding Author.

Mehta S, Linton MM, Kempen JH. Outcomes of cataract surgery in patients with uveitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Ophthalmol. 158(4): 676-92, 2014. Epub 2014 Jun 28.

Subburaman GB, Hariharan L, Ravilla TD, Ravilla RD, Kempen JH. Demand for Tertiary Eye Care Services in Developing Countries. Am J Ophthalmol. 160(4): 619-627, Oct 2015. Epub 2015 Jun 19.

Kempen JH*, Gangaputra S, Daniel E, Levy-Clarke GA, Nussenblatt RB, Rosenbaum JT, Suhler EB, Thorne JE, Foster CS, Jabs DA, Helzlsouer KH. Long-term risk of malignancy among patients treated with immunosuppressive agents for ocular inflammation: critical assessment of the evidence. Am J Ophthalmol. 146(6): 802-12, Dec 2008. *Corresponding Author.

Kempen JH, Tekle-Haimonot R, Hunduma L, Shifferaw MA, Pistilli M, Abashawl A, Lawrence SD, Alemayehu W.  Fluorometholone 0.1% as Ancillary Therapy for Trachomatous Trichiasis Surgery: Randomized Clinical TrialAm J Ophthalmol, in press.

Bourne RRA, Flaxman SR, Braithwaite T, Cicinelli MV, Das A, Jonas JB, Keeffe J, Kempen JH, Leasher J, Limburg H, Naidoo K, Pesudovs K, Resnikoff S, Silvester  A, Stevens GA, Tahhan N, Wong TY, Taylor HR; Vision Loss Expert Group. Magnitude, temporal trends, and projections of the global prevalence of blindness and distance and near vision impairment: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Glob Health. 2017 Sep;5(9):e888-e897.

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1988: B.S., with Departmental Honors, Biological Sciences, Stanford University

1992: M.D., University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine

1997: M.P.H., International Health, Johns Hopkins University, School of Hygiene and Public Health

1999: M.H.S., Biostatistics, Johns Hopkins University, School of Hygiene and Public Health

2001: Ph.D., Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health

Postgraduate Training

1992-1993: Intern, Transitional Residency Program, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, San Jose, CA.

1993-1996:  Resident, Ophthalmology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA.

1996-1997: Fellow, Preventive Ophthalmology, Dana Center for Preventive Ophthalmology, The Wilmer Eye Institute, School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD.

1997-1998: Fellow, Clinical Trials, Center for Clinical Trials, Department of Epidemiology, School of Hygiene and Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD.

1997-1998: Fellow, Uveitis and Clinical Immunology, Ocular Immunology Service, Wilmer Eye Institute, School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD.

Professional Memberships

1991-present: Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology

1993-present: American Academy of Ophthalmology, Fellow

1996-present: University of Washington Ophthalmology Alumni Association

1997-present: The Johns Hopkins Medical and Surgical Association

1997-present: Society for Clinical Trials

1998-present: Wilmer Resident Alumni Association

1998-present: American Uveitis Society, Member, past member of Executive Committee

2005-present: International Uveitis Study Group


1984: Bank of America Achievement Award

1984: Pacific Gas and Electric College Scholarship Award

1988: Graduation with Departmental Honors, Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University

1993: Diplomate of the National Board of Medical Examiners

1997: Diplomate of the American Board of Ophthalmology (renewed in 2007)

1998: Fellow, American Academy of Ophthalmology

1998: Mentored Clinical Scientist Development Award, National Eye Institute

2007: Research to Prevent Blindness, James S. Adams Special Scholar Award

2007: European Uveitis Patient Interest Association:  1st Prize, Best 2006 Paper in Clinical Uveitis

2008: Top five most cited papers published by Ophthalmic Epidemiology during 2008.

2009: America's Top Ophthalmologists, Consumers' Research Council of America

2009: European Uveitis Patient Interest Association:  1st Prize, Best 2008 Paper in Clinical Uveitis

2009: Fellow, American College of Epidemiology

2010: European Uveitis Patient Interest Association:  2nd Prize, Best 2009 Paper in Clinical Uveitis

2011: American Academy of Ophthalmology Achievement Award

2009-2013: Inclusion of 2-4 first or senior author papers within the top 10 uveitis papers published each of these years recommended by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (Uveitis Resident Reading List), up to the current year.