The American Academy of Ophthalmology is pleased to honor James Chodosh, MD, MPH; Gary N. Holland, MD; Thomas L. Steinemann, MD; Sonal S. Tuli, MD; and Steven Yeh, MD, as the 2022 recipients of its Distinguished Service Award. Affectionately dubbed the “COVID Dream Team,” these five volunteers represented the public and clinical educational arms of the Academy to provide reliable guidance and information to help both physicians and patients navigate the most challenging days of the pandemic.
Drs. Chodosh, Holland and Yeh are recognized for developing the Academy’s clinical recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Chodosh is the chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of New Mexico and a specialist in corneal disease, molecular virology and viral genomics. Dr. Holland is the Jack H. Skirball Professor of Ocular Inflammatory Diseases and chief of the cornea and uveitis service at the Jules Stein Eye Institute of the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Yeh is the Stanley Truhlsen Jr. Endowed Chair in Ophthalmology and director of the retina and uveitis service at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. They share a passion for the study of infectious diseases, and each is recognized as a leader in the field.
Beginning in January 2020 and throughout that year, Dr. Chodosh directed this three-person team to educate fellow ophthalmologists about SARS-CoV-2 and the COVID-19 pandemic, updating a series of critical pages on the Academy’s Ophthalmic News and Education (ONE®) Network with practical advice as understanding of the virus evolved. Throughout the spring and early summer, the group collaborated daily, making multiple iterative changes each week, with more than 250 total updates throughout the year that followed. These webpages received more than 2 million views over a few months and dramatically improved how ophthalmologists adapted their safety and surgical protocols as infection rates changed.
The group also led multiple webinars on COVID-19 and answered dozens of community questions online to help ophthalmologists and practice administrators follow evidence-based standards and provide safe, effective patient care.
Drs. Steinemann and Tuli are recognized for their dedication to educating the media and public about COVID-19 and the eye. Dr. Steinemann operates a cataract and cornea practice in Cleveland and is a clinical professor of ophthalmology at Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Tuli is chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Florida and a specialist in corneal and external disease. Together they served as the Academy’s key clinical spokespeople from the pandemic’s outset, carving time out of their busy practices to field questions from the media on emerging and evolving evidence linking SARS-CoV-2 to certain eye conditions. When confusion was rampant and the media call volume at its peak, they provided the context and perspective the public needed.
During the same period, Drs. Steinemann and Tuli contributed to a range of articles produced for the Academy’s public education website, addressing topics such as pink eye and COVID-19 and how to distinguish COVID-19 symptoms from allergies, and encouraging patients to return to the office for regular visits when restrictions were lifted.
Through the tireless efforts of these five volunteers, the Academy further cemented its reputation as the leader in eye health and safety, supporting both its physician members and the patients they served during a worldwide pandemic.