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Keeping an Eye on Health

Adams PortraitVision is our most important sense, says Dr. Neal Adams. And he promises he’s not just saying that because he’s a retinal ophthalmologist and loves the eye.

“One-third of brain function is devoted to vision,” Adams said. “From memory to coordination, vision is involved in a lot of different parts of the brain.”

Adams is one of six doctors who will teach a new course this spring at the Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus. Physicians from Suburban Hospital and the National Institutes of Health will educate seniors in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute program about current topics in medicine and medical research.

The course, “Medicine: Advances in Health Research and Treatment,” starts March 31 and runs for six weeks.

Each doctor will lead one day’s session. Adams will explain vision diseases and conditions such as how macular degeneration affects the senior population and how they can be successfully treated with the latest advances in ophthalmology.

Adams’ ties to Johns Hopkins run deep. He attended Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and did his residency at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute, where he also completed a fellowship in retinal diseases and surgery and joined the faculty. The faculty position led to him serving as chief of the division of visual physiology. After a stint in Texas, he returned to the Baltimore-D.C. area, started his own private practice and joined the staff of Suburban Hospital, a member of Johns Hopkins Medicine.

While a student at Hopkins, Adams did research on the brain and was intrigued by the visual system. He decided to specialize in the retina, the back lining of the eye.

“It is like the film in an old-fashioned camera,” Adams said of the retina. “It’s what sees light, creates pictures and sends the pictures to the brain.”

But the retina can be prone to disease, such as diabetic retinopathy – damage to the blood vessels of the retina -- and macular degeneration.

With the Osher class, Adams will discuss age-related macular degeneration, diabetes, cataracts, glaucoma and dry eye.

“I am going to talk about what the condition is, what you can do to prevent the condition, what causes the conditions and treatment options,” Adams said.

“The eye is one of the most demanding organs in our body,” Adams continued. “When I say that, I mean demanding metabolically, demanding in terms of blood flow requirements, demanding in terms of oxygen requirements, demanding in terms of nutritional requirements.”

Adams encourages students in the Osher class to read his book, Healthy Vision, before the class starts, but it’s not mandatory.

He looks forward to having Osher members be his students.

“I hope they learn a bit about the intricacies of how the human body functions and specifically about how the retina functions,” Adams said. “I hope they learn about how there are ways one can treat what is often described as debilitating diseases, and there are treatment options for patients.”

Other doctors teaching in the Osher class are:

  • Dr. Wade Chien, an otolaryngologist, who will discuss the factors that contribute to hearing loss and advancements to help reverse its effect.
  • Dr. Ted George, psychiatrist and author of Untangling the Mind: Why We Behave the Way We Do, who will delve deep into human behavior and uncover how our perplexing actions are expressed and translated in every day society from a neurological standpoint.
  • Dr. Keith Horvath, who will explain his latest research developments in the field of cardiothoracic surgery and provide an in-depth look at the current advances in cardiovascular and valve replacement surgery. Horvath is director of cardiothoracic surgery research at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Suburban Hospital, where he leads the National Institutes of Health Heart Center.
  • Dr. Monica C. Skarulis, who will describe developments in how we control diabetes and research underway to help broaden our knowledge and understanding of diabetes.
  • Dr. Daniel Valaik, an orthopedic surgeon, who will highlight the range of issues affecting joints such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and sports-related injuries and how advances in research are paving the way in joint replacement surgery.

CATEGORY: Academics, In The Community