James C. Tsai, M.D., M.B.A., an authority on glaucoma, has been named chair of the medical school’s Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science. As chair, Tsai will be recruiting additional clinicians and basic scientists with a focus on rapidly bringing scientific discoveries made at Yale to patients in need.

In Tsai’s research on glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness in which increasing pressure inside the eyeball causes progressive damage to the optic nerve, he has searched for drugs to protect the nerve, evaluated the effectiveness of surgical treatments and developed advanced techniques for testing visual function.

Tsai comes to the School of Medicine from the Edward S. Harkness Eye Institute of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, where his laboratory has been especially active in exploring whether erythropoietin, a hormone made by the kidney that aids in red blood cell formation, can protect the optic nerve in glaucoma.

“Yale is extremely fortunate to attract Jim Tsai as our new chair of ophthalmology and visual science,” says Robert J. Alpern, M.D., dean and Ensign Professor of Medicine. “His breadth of knowledge about all aspects of ophthalmology, together with outstanding leadership skills, make him an ideal choice.”

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Amherst College and an alumnus of the Stanford University School of Medicine, Tsai completed his residency in ophthalmology at the Doheny Eye Institute at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Following his residency, he completed glaucoma fellowships at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami and at Moorfields Eye Hospital and Institute of Ophthalmology in London. Tsai received his master’s degree in business administration from the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University.

Tsai has authored a wide range of scientific articles, abstracts, and book chapters in glaucoma, and has co-authored a textbook, Medical Management of Glaucoma. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American College of Surgeons and the Royal Society of Medicine in the United Kingdom. Tsai serves as a panel consultant for the Ophthalmic Devices Panel of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and as a committee member of the National Eye Health Education Program Planning Committee of the National Institutes of Health. He is chair of the Medical Advisory Committee of The Glaucoma Foundation and is an elected member of the American Eye Study Club and the New York Ophthalmological Society.

As department chair, Tsai follows in the footsteps of two highly respected experts on glaucoma: Marvin L. Sears, M.D., who founded the department in 1971, and M. Bruce Shields, M.D., who has led the department since 1996.

“Dr. Tsai represents a new generation in academic ophthalmology,” says David J. Leffell, M.D., the School of Medicine’s deputy dean for clinical affairs. “We are confident and excited that he will bring the department to national and international prominence in clinical care, research and education.”