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Dr. Rajesh C. Rao ’00 named Leonard G. Miller Professor of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences at the University of Michigan

A formal installation ceremony and reception took place on June 11 at the W.K. Kellogg Eye Center to install Rajesh C. Rao, MD, a retinal surgeon and physician-scientist, as the inaugural Leonard G. Miller Professor of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences at the University of Michigan. Attendees included Dr. Rao’s colleagues and family, in addition to Mr. Miller, the benefactor whose gift made possible this endowed professorship.

The focus of Dr. Rao’s translational research laboratory is the epigenetic regulation of retinal development and disease in order to identify new biomarkers, therapeutic targets, and applications of stem cells for blinding diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and eye cancers. Dr. Rao has over 75 peer-reviewed publications in the fields of stem cells, epigenetics, and clinical ophthalmology.

Following completion of undergraduate studies (BS, Molecular Biology) at University of Wisconsin-Madison, Rajesh earned his MD from Yale University School of Medicine.

He completed his internship at Evanston Hospital/McGaw Medical Center of Northwestern University and ophthalmology residency at Harvard Medical School/Mass Eye & Ear. This was followed by two years of additional subspecialty training in vitreoretinal surgery, uveitis, and ocular oncology at Barnes Retina Institute (a joint program of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and The Retina Institute).
Since becoming Director of the Retina Service at the Veteran’s Administration Ann Arbor Health System, and faculty at the University of Michigan, Dr. Rao was appointed as a Taubman Emerging Scholar in 2015 through a gift to the institute from philanthropists Leslie and Abigail Wexner. Emerging Scholar grants support early-career physician-scientists at the assistant professor level.

Dr. Rao has been an NIH/NEI K12 and K08-funded clinician-scientist at Kellogg Eye Center, and has earned awards and grants from Research to Prevent Blindness, E. Matilda Ziegler Foundation, Knights Templar Eye Foundation, Alcon Research Institute, and the U-M Biointerfaces Institute. In 2015, he became the youngest member inducted into the Macula Society, and was inducted into The Retina Society in 2017. As a physician-scientist, Dr. Rao has served as a grant reviewer for the National Institutes of Health, Veteran’s Administration Office of Research & Development , California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the UK’s Medical Research Council.

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Leah Hunter ’05 has joined the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as associate commissioner for external affairs, where she oversees agency-wide communications activities regarding the FDA’s public health and regulatory activities.