Leading glaucoma surgeon Dr. Ramesh Ayyala named new chair of ophthalmology

Ramesh S. Ayyala, MD, FRCS, FRCOphth, an internationally renowned glaucoma surgeon and researcher who rebuilt the ophthalmology residency program at Tulane University following Hurricane Katrina, has been named the new chairperson of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine (MCOM) Department of Ophthalmology. He will also fill the James & Health Gills Endowed Chair in Ophthalmology at MCOM.

Dr. Ayyala, whose expertise includes surgical management of corneas and cataracts as well as glaucoma, joins USF Health April 1 from Tulane University School of Medicine. He will assume leadership of USF Health’s ophthalmology department from Peter Pavan, MD, who served as the department’s chair for nearly 20 years, including when Dr. Ayyala did a residency here from 1996 to 1999.  Dr. Pavan will continue his academic role at USF as a professor of ophthalmology.

Dr. Ramesh Ayyala

At Tulane, Dr. Ayyala was a professor of ophthalmology, director of the glaucoma service, and has served as both ophthalmology residency director and director of the glaucoma/anterior segment fellowship program. He established one of the largest practices in the South for treating complex cases of glaucoma and corneal diseases.

“Dr. Ayyala is the perfect fit to lead USF Health Ophthalmology as we work to strengthen the depth and breadth of the department whose foundation was built so well by Dr. Pavan,” said Charles J. Lockwood, MD, senior vice president for USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine. “He is a passionate about affordable, high quality medical education and residency training; superb at managing complex care for glaucoma, cornea and cataracts; committed to advancing safety and value-based care for all patients; and an innovator whose research led to the development of a glaucoma anti-scar tissue system. His expertise, enthusiasm and incredible drive will be an asset to our academic and health care enterprise.”

Born in Hyderabad, India, Dr. Ayyala completed his medical training on three continents. He graduated from Gandhi Medical College, Osmania University in Hyderabad and completed residency training in ophthalmology at Mersey Region Hospitals, United Kingdom (UK), and at USF, Tampa, FL.  He also served a fellowship in glaucoma surgery at Massachusetts Eye and Ear infirmary, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, and another in cornea and external diseases at Boston University Medical Center, Boston, MA.

Dr. Ayyala’ s research focuses on improving glaucoma drainage devices used to surgically relieve uncontrollable eye pressure and prevent blindness, as well as developing next generation drug delivery systems for controlled release of antibiotics, anti-inflammatory agents or other medications.  His work led to the creation of a new drug-coated drainage device to decrease scar tissue formation and enhance patient outcomes following glaucoma surgery.

Dr. Ayyala is a fellow of the Royal College of Ophthalmology and the Royal College of Surgeons, both in the UK, and a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.  He is a board member and past president of the Louisiana Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons.

His career includes many other accomplishments, including:

  • Recipient of the Courage to Teach Parker J. Palmer Award from the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) for rebuilding Tulane’s residency program from ground zero after its trainees were dispersed across the country following Hurricane Katrina. The program rebounded and is now thriving.
  • Serves as founding chairman and member of the board of directors of the Anand Eye Institute, a teaching and research eye hospital in Hyderabad India. The Institute’s mission is to train future leaders of ophthalmology while delivering quality eye care to underserved communities and reducing the burden of blindness in India.
  • Created MediTred.com, a website dedicated to ophthalmology education and training, for which he received the New Orleans City Business Innovators Award.
  • Serves as the president and chief executive officer of ElutiMed, the makers of a slow release, anti-scar tissue drug delivery system.
  • Worked with the American Academy of Ophthalmology to introduce to the Louisiana Legislature a “refill bill” requiring insurance companies to cover the cost of additional prescription eye drops if glaucoma patients run out before their allotted monthly refill. The approved bill was signed into law and became effective Jan. 1, 2017.
  • Annually listed since 2009 in “Best Doctors in America” and “America’s Top Ophthalmologists,” and recognized by the American Academy of Ophthalmology for outstanding service and education with three awards: Achievement, Academic Achievement, and Secretariat.
  • Led a Tulane medical team that collaborated with veterinarians at The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, LA, to treat corneal ulcers and scars in dolphins and sea lions.

Dr. Ayyala says he looks forward to working with many of his previous teachers and mentors in the Department of Ophthalmology and with USF Health leadership to establish a premier eye institute.

“I hope to fill Dr. Pavan’s large shoes and am grateful that he is still in the department to guide and mentor me,” he said. “My long-term goal is to build a nationally ranked eye institute right here in Tampa Bay area that provides excellent clinical care and opportunities for bio-innovation and research.  The more modest goals for my first year are to successfully move the USF Eye Institute to its new physical space in the Morsani Center for Advanced Healthcare and to recruit new, enthusiastic faculty members to expand our footprint.”