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Dr. Schaal Celebrating 3 Years at UMass

Date Posted: Wednesday, June 19, 2019

We are always taught to look ahead, keep progressing, set goals and reach them. You all know that I personally love stretch goals, crazy dreams, steep challenges, and big future plans. But sometimes, it is also important and healthy to stop for a (short) while, and take a few moments to look back and reflect upon the path we walked upon together. There is no better day to do this kind of (short) reflection than today, because tomorrow I celebrate 3 years at UMass. Some of you were already here when I arrived, some of you joined us along the way, and all of you, I hope, can appreciate the transformation of the Eye Center which took place in this relatively short period of time.

In the clinic - our patient volume grew x7, our surgical volume tripled, we added new clinical services: optometry and contact lens service, highly efficient retina injection clinic, oculoplastics, minimally invasive glaucoma service, premium IOL service, pediatric ophthalmology, uveitis clinic, and a five day a week open access eye clinic. We replaced (most of) our antiquated equipment with state of the art technology. Our patient satisfaction rates soared to above 95% (100% at the ACC). We grew from one location to 3 different locations. We won the Innovator of the Year Award in 2017 and we were named as one of the Sweet 16 teams in 2018.

In research: we grew to be the #1 surgical department in UMass in terms of research $$$ funding, and the #2 ophthalmology NIH funded department in New England (after Harvard MEEI, that has more than 120 faculty members). We established a center for translational research, and a Macular Degeneration Center of Excellence. We presented our scientific work at national and international conferences, and several of our faculty members won important research awards. We established multiple research collaborations with different departments at UMass and our clinician-researchers have been named finalists for the PACE prize two years in a row (for different projects and collaborations).

In education: we established the Vision Seminar series which allowed us to invite the best national ophthalmology speakers to UMass. We founded the Ophthalmology Student Interest Group (OSIG), and as a result several of our students published their work as first authors, and presented their work in ophthalmology conferences. Two of our medical students matched in high profile ophthalmology residency programs. And, of course, most exciting, is the recent approval of our own ophthalmology residency program.

In community outreach: we regularly participate in community focused events, such as the multicultural women’s health summit, the teddy bear clinic, and UMass Cancer Walk. Our faculty members and staff gave dozens of talks at community centers and senior centers. We were featured on Facebook live with educational live short videos that reached our local and extended community. We established a highly rated website, noticeable social media presence, and a newsletter to allow us to keep in constant connection with our community.

Every single person at the Eye Center made a significant difference to allow this “magic” to happen. Every one of you contributed something unique and special that would have not been possible to achieve without your presence, your smile, your commitment, your efforts, your motivation, your hard work, your skills, your talent, and your ideas. Many people outside the Eye Center joined the Eye Team and provided us with great support, guidance, and mentoring: ASG team, OR team, marketing, IS/TNT, HR, Faculty Affairs Office, Central Scheduling, Boston Children’s team, legal team, and of course, senior leadership at the hospital, the medical group, the medical school, and the medical system. If you don’t work at the Eye Center and you have a pin, a sticker, a cookie, a lanyard, a sweatshirt or a cup with an UMass Eye logo on it, you must know you have helped us in our journey tremendously, and we thank you for that. If you are copied above and don’t have any of these - please let me know, because you certainly deserved it.

This was a (short) reflection to allow us a moment to be proud of all that we have achieved together in 3 years in all our mission areas. It has truly been an incredible journey so far, in which we all have some “battle scars” and “gray hair” to remind us how we fought to thrive, learned from our mistakes, developed, progressed and matured personally and professionally. As we move on forward towards the next three years, we have many new exciting goals and great challenges to face. I cannot think of a better team to conquer these new endeavors. In three years from now our first class of residents will graduate, and I believe that by that time we, together as a team, will make the Eye Center better, more advanced, bigger, and stronger than today.

From the bottom of my heart I thank you for being on my team, the best of all teams, the Eye Team.

With respect and appreciation,

Shlomit Schaal, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor and Chair
Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences
University of Massachusetts Medical School

Shlomit Schaal, M.D., Ph.D.