Irene Maumenee, MD Recognized as AAO Laureate

Columbia Ophthalmology's newest faculty member will be recognized in New Orleans for lifetime achievement at the American Academy of Ophthalmology's annual conference. 

Irene H. Maumenee, MD, who joined the CUMC Ophthalmology in October, will be named the 2017 AAO Laureate during the opening session of the nation's largest gathering of ophthalmic clinicians, academics, researchers and administrators.

The Laureate award which recognizes individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the betterment of eye care leading to the prevention of blindness and restoration of sight worldwide, is the organization's highest honor. It is a befitting tribute to Dr. Irene Maumenee, a board-certified ophthalmologist and medical geneticist with an esteemed career and lifelong interest in genetic eye diseases and rare hereditary ophthalmic disorders.

Widely considered a seminal figure in the field of ophthalmic genetics, Dr. Maumenee currently serves at Columbia as Professor of Ophthalmic Sciences and Director of Ophthalmic Genetics for the newly established Jonas Children’s Vision Care (JCVC) an integrated set of programs aimed at fighting pediatric blindness.  

The JCVC programs aims to ensure that all children can live healthy lives with great vision and will offer genetic and advanced ophthalmic diagnostic testing. Dr. Maumanee’s move to New York to head-up the genetic division of the Jonas program is only the latest in Dr. Maumenee’s remarkable career.

Following graduate medical study at the University of Gӧttingen, Germany, Dr. Maumenee joined the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, where she wrote a thesis on X-linked retinitis pigmentosa, under the mentorship of the preeminent ophthalmic Professor Adolphe Franceschetti.

From there she moved to the University of Honolulu, Hawaii, where she focused on population genetics and initiated a long-term study and analysis of achromatopsia on Pingelap, an island in the Federated States of Micronesia. Findings there led to the identification of the first gene for colorblindness, CNGB3.

Work at John’s Hopkins followed. Dr. Maumenee’s interest in genetic eye diseases was well received and found a home over 40 years at the school’s Department of Medical Genetics, founded by Dr. Victor A McKusick, a strong stalwart in the study of connective tissue disorders and the Marfan Syndrome. Dr. Maumenee’s work at John’s Hopkins served informed her American Ophthalmology Society thesis on the Marfan Syndrome, work which included a group of diseases which entail dissections of the aorta This work will continue at Columbia.

Previously Ophthalmology faculty and director of the Ocular Genetics Laboratory at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago, Dr. Maumenee has published more than 300 journal articles and is the section editor for birth defects and genetic diseases for the British Journal of Ophthalmology. She is the recipient of awards from the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the National Marfan Foundation, Women in Ophthalmology and the International Society for Genetic Eye Diseases & Retinoblastoma.