UCI Health eye surgeon unlocks the power of lasers to stave off blindness and strengthen eyesight

April 20, 2011
Roger F. Steinert, MD, Ophthalmology Director, Gavin Herbert Eye Institute

As a newly minted ophthalmologist in the 1980s, Dr. Roger Steinert was intrigued by exotic lasers being developed in France and Switzerland to cut and reshape eye tissue. But nobody had systematically explored how to use them safely for eye surgery or develop their potential.

Steinert, then a junior faculty member at Harvard Medical School, made it his passion to unlock the power of those lasers. For the past three decades, Steinert, now director of the UCI Health Gavin Herbert Eye Institute and chair of the UCI School of Medicine's Department of Ophthalmology, investigated their use and pioneered new laser surgery techniques to stave off blindness and strengthen eyesight.

Now one of the world’s foremost experts in the fields of cataract surgery, corneal transplantation and laser refractive vision correction, Steinert’s early work with lasers helped lay the foundation for LASIK surgery.

More recently, he and his colleagues developed a groundbreaking approach to corneal transplant surgery that is more precise and leads to better outcomes and faster recoveries than traditional handheld surgical blades. Using the Interlase® Femtosecond Laser invented by two UC Irvine researchers, Steinert successfully performed a blade-less corneal transplant.

“This technique has revolutionized corneal transplants,” says Steinert, making transplant surgery safer, reducing healing time and better visual results because it allows for a more precise fit of a donor cornea or intraocular lens implant.

“What could be better in life than helping to preserve and restore vision?” asked Steinert, who consistently appears on the prestigious “Best Doctors in America” list.

The Massachusetts native came to UCI in 2004 after 23 years on the Harvard faculty. He relocated to Orange County in part because of the historically strong ties between UC Irvine researchers and the area’s thriving eye-care industry. That cooperation has helped translate discoveries made in the lab into sight-saving medical devices and other products. The excellence of the university’s ophthalmology team also attracted him.

Today, Steinert is working to make vision after laser refractive surgery and cataract surgery even closer to perfection. He remains on the leading edge of laser research, focused on the integration of new technologies with therapeutic applications. He consistently appears in both America’s Top Doctors and Best Doctors in America in the areas of cataract, cornea and refractive surgery. He has served as president of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery and is the author of innumerable peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters and textbooks.

As founding director of the eye institute, Steinert is “committed to meeting the community’s need and elevating the level of eye care in Orange County to the best found anywhere nationally or internationally.”