The University of Texas Medical Branch, the state's oldest academic health center, also is home to the oldest ophthalmology department in the Southwest.
As the University of Texas medical school was opening in Galveston in 1891, ophthalmology also was emerging as a new branch of medicine. Ophthalmology migrated from being a subspecialty of surgery to a unique medical discipline dealing with many diverse disorders and their effects on the eyes. The ophthalmologist became equally a physician and surgeon of the eye.
Eye care has been a core specialty at UTMB since 1897 when Dr. George P. Hall became the first chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology. By 1922, ophthalmology had become a separate department. It evolved into the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences (OVS) in 1994. The department has trained more eye doctors that any other medical school in the region.
Today UTMB Health physicians in the Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences see about 24,000 eye patients and perform about 1,800 eye surgeries each year. Under the leadership of Dr. Kevin Merkley, the department strives to create an exceptional academic environment, provide patients with compassionate, leading-edge-eye care and conduct innovative research aimed at preserving the gift of sight.