Dr. Jessica Shantha is the recipient of the 2020 American Academy of Ophthalmology Artemis Award. She was nominated by the Georgia Society of Ophthalmology for her ongoing efforts in the medical and surgical care of Ebola survivors afflicted with sight-threatening uveitis and her dedication to addressing ophthalmic health disparities in sub-Saharan Africa.
Since 2014, the Academy has honored a young ophthalmologist with the Artemis Award in recognition the tremendous work he or she has done to help disadvantaged communities obtain vision care. The award is named after the Greek goddess Artemis, who was the protector and nurturer of the vulnerable and suffering.
Past recipients have helped deliver health care to poor or elderly communities, designed or launched community-based health care programs or educational programs for patients.
Dr. Shantha joined the Emory Eye Center’s faculty in September 2017. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology, magna cum laude, from the University of Georgia. She earned her Degree of Medicine, summa cum laude, from the Morehouse School of Medicine, and completed ophthalmology residency at Emory University. She followed residency with a clinical and research fellowship in medical retinal disease at Retina Consultants of Hawaii, and subsequently, a Heed Ophthalmic Foundation clinical uveitis fellow with the Francis I. Proctor Foundation, University of California San Francisco.
Dr. Shantha first became involved in our field’s understanding of the ocular complications related to Ebola virus when she was a third-year ophthalmology resident and key member of a team of physicians caring for a repatriated Ebola survivor at Emory University. The Emory University team was the first to describe Ebola virus persistence in the ocular fluid and its central role in the development of sight-threatening panuveitis during Ebola survivorship. After this discovery, Dr. Shantha sought to help the thousands of Ebola survivors in West Africa who might be at-risk for ocular disease. This prompted multiple trips to both Liberia and Sierra Leone, as well as the recent outbreak in conflicted, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, to provide education, training, research, mentorship and support the examination of hundreds of patients in partnership with the World Health Organization, Partners in Health, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation of Sierra Leone, the National Institutes of Health, and numerous non-governmental organizations.
Dr. Shantha has been awarded multiple grants to continue her work on Ebola virus persistence in the eye, ocular complications of Ebola related eye disease, and risk factor assessment. She was selected to participate as a distinguished scholar in the Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health (BIRCWH) Program at Emory University and was recently awarded a National Eye Institute, NIH K23 Career Development Award to contribute to our understanding of the eye as a surveillance organ for emerging pathogens. Dr. Shantha’s research has resulted in 35 peer-reviewed manuscripts and over 60 abstracts, book chapters and presentations.
Dr. Shantha is most proud of the ability to advocate for the thousands of Ebola virus survivors that need eye care and routine screenings. Additionally, she has been able to impart perspectives and build capacity related to uveitis management in resource-limited settings via regional seminars, education, and mentorship. Through multiple ongoing studies and longstanding partnerships, Dr. Shantha is dedicated to the work towards vision health equity and access in the West Africa region. She is currently Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, specializing in Uveitis, Medical Retina, and Global Health at the Emory Eye Center.