Ophthalmology at the University of Kentucky was granted departmental status in 1974. It had been a division of surgery from 1967 to 1974. Jonathan D. Wirtschafter, MD was the first Chief and then Chairman, remaining in this capacity until 1977. During this time, Dr. Wirtschafter made significant contributions to understanding the pathogenesis of papilledema. Many of the early residents in this program went on to practice in Kentucky, supplying much needed ophthalmic care to the urban and rural parts of this state.

Richard Kielar, MD was the Acting Chairman of the Department from 1977 until 1978 when Donald Bergsma, MD was appointed Chairman.

Dr. Bergsma established a full-time faculty covering ophthalmic pathology, cornea and external disease, neuro-ophthalmology, oculoplastic surgery and retina. Dr. Bergsma left in 1984 and the Department entered a rather long search for a Departmental Chairman. 

Dr. Robert Baker was appointed Chairman in 1987. He expanded both the clinical and research enterprises of the department, creating a full-time vitreoretinal service and establishing a strong basic science program in extraocular motility research that was supported by the NIH. Dr. Baker stepped down as Chairman in 1999 to pursue full-time clinical practice within the department.

Dr. Richard Mills assumed the helm shortly after, his leadership in the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Board of Ophthalmology enhanced the visibility of the department in many ways, including drawing the editorship of the Academy magazine Eyenet. He also recruited several vibrant young physicians and physician-scientists to the department. Dr. Mills returned to private practice near Seattle to be closer to his family.

P. Andrew Pearson, MD assumed the Chairmanship in July 2002. Since then, he has established a strong institutional mandate to elevate our department’s national recognition with the continued expansion of clinical and basic science faculty. We now have over 20 full-time clinical faculty providing advanced eye care for central and eastern Kentucky and an internationally renowned translationally oriented research program in ocular biology.