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New ophthalmology chair seeks to advance research, clinical care and training programs

Sonal S. Tuli, M.D., M.Ed., has been appointed chairman of the department of ophthalmology at the University of Florida College of Medicine.

“I am very enthusiastic about the next chapter in UF ophthalmology under Dr. Tuli’s leadership as department chair,” said Michael Good, M.D., dean of the UF College of Medicine. “She is dedicated to advancing the department’s missions of care, research and education — both personally and by faculty and staff recruitment and professional development. She continues momentum gained as interim chair, during which access to clinical services improved, research funding advanced and the residency program continued to excel. We are fortunate to have her continue at UF in this important leadership position.”

Tuli will oversee a department that comprises 14 clinical faculty, 14 research faculty, 15 residents, six graduate students, three postdoctoral researchers and a support and administrative staff of approximately 100.

“Dr. Tuli brings a number of great characteristics to this position,” said Marvin A. Dewar, M.D., senior associate dean and CEO for UF Health Physicians. “She is bright, energetic and a widely acknowledged premier ophthalmologist and educator. And while she has the courage of her convictions, she is also fair and listens well to all opinions. I am confident she will be a great chair.”

Each year, the department of ophthalmology sees approximately 32,000 patients at three UF Health locations in Gainesville: Medical Plaza, Hampton Oaks and Magnolia Parke. These sites offer clinical services for routine care as well as every subspecialty in ophthalmology, including refractive surgery (iLASIK) services, pediatric ophthalmology, neuro-ophthalmology and others.

The department’s research areas range from the development of gene therapy for retinal and macular diseases to wound healing and the treatment of herpetic eye infections. This research, in addition to clinical research, is funded by competitive grants from the National Institutes of Health and other organizations — including the nonprofit group Research to Prevent Blindness, which has supported the department with grants totaling more than $4.4 million over the past five decades.

“I am honored to be selected to lead a department that has some of the most talented physicians and scientists in the country,” Tuli said. “Our goal is to work together to make this one of the premier eye departments in the country with exceptional clinical care and cutting-edge research.”

The department’s Center for Vision Research provides support to nine departments and six colleges active in vision research with a core group of researchers from across campus. Its residency training program has one of the highest surgical numbers and volume of clinical pathology in the country, resulting in American Board of Ophthalmology pass rates at over 95 percent for residents.

As chairman, Tuli hopes to advance these achievements even further, she said.

“Our physicians treat complex eye problems with excellent outcomes and our scientists have made great advances in developing treatments for blinding eye diseases,” Tuli said. “I will work to facilitate their successful collaboration to make this a center that attracts people from all over the country who can benefit from these services. We will work together to make this one of the leading training programs for ophthalmologists and subspecialists.”

Tuli received her medical degree from Grant Medical College in Mumbai, India, in 1992 and completed her residency in ophthalmology at Indiana University in 2000. She completed her fellowship in cornea and external diseases at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami and joined the UF department of ophthalmology in 2001. Tuli was appointed director of its division of cornea and external disease in 2003 and has also served as the director of the ophthalmology residency program since 2007. In 2012, Tuli completed a master's degree in education at UF and was promoted to professor with tenure two years later.

She was appointed interim chairman of the department in October 2013, after William T. Driebe Jr., M.D., stepped down after almost 10 years of service.

A board-certified ophthalmologist, Tuli’s research interests include cataracts, corneal transplants, ocular surface cancers, dry eye disease and infectious eye diseases. She provides adult and family-based ophthalmic care.

Tuli has lectured extensively at international, national, regional and local conferences as well as at UF. She has over 50 publications in peer-reviewed journals and is actively involved in clinical and NIH-funded laboratory research as a principal investigator or co-investigator. Tuli is on the editorial board of peer-reviewed publications and a reviewer for a number of scholarly journals. She holds three patents.

She serves on the board of the Florida Society of Ophthalmology and on several committees for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, including as chair of the Online Education Committee, vice chair of the Practicing Ophthalmologists Curriculum Panel and educational representative to the Continuing Medical Education task force. She has served as an oral examiner for the American Board of Ophthalmology since 2007.

“I am thrilled to be working with Dr. Tuli,” said Marian Limacher, M.D., senior associate dean of faculty affairs and professional development for the UF College of Medicine. “She is committed to excellent patient care, strong educational programs and supporting innovative research. She is an advocate for patients, faculty and trainees and is a welcome voice for leadership in the college.”

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Marilee Griffin
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