Mina Chung, Retinal Surgeon and Researcher, Dies at 51

Feb. 17, 2020

Mina Millicent Chung, M.D., an ophthalmologist and retina specialist who helped blind children to see and furthered the study of retinal disease, including macular degeneration, died Feb. 13 after a fall while skiing in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Dolomites, Italy. She was 51.

Chung was an associate professor of ophthalmology at URMC’s Flaum Eye Institute and a faculty member in the University’s Center for Visual Science. Before being recruited to Rochester in 2002, she completed a fellowship in vitreoretinal surgery at the University of Iowa College of Medicine, following residency and postdoctoral research at USC University Hospital in Los Angeles, where she served as chief resident from 2000 to 2002. Chung was a 1994 graduate of the Yale University School of Medicine who received her undergraduate degree from Yale in 1990.

As a clinician, Dr. Chung provided medical and surgical care to patients of all ages suffering from retinal diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, diabetic eye disease, genetic retinal diseases, ocular trauma, uveitis and other diseases relating to the back of the eye. She was a key member of Flaum Eye Institute’s pediatric artificial corneal transplant team and a specialist in pediatric retinal surgeries. 

“Mina Chung was an exceptionally skilled, caring surgeon who also excelled as a scientist and educator in the field of ophthalmology,” said Mark B. Taubman, M.D., president and CEO of the University of Rochester Medical Center. “She was a valued member of our faculty who will be missed by the many patients and colleagues whose lives she touched, not just here in Rochester but around the world.”

David A. DiLoreto, M.D., Ph.D., Chair of Ophthalmology and Director of the Flaum Institute, also praised Chung for her dedication to patients. “Mina was one of the most dedicated and hardworking physicians I have ever known,” DiLoreto said. “Mina did whatever was needed to serve her patients, and she did it with a smile and enthusiasm that was infectious to all of us who had the privilege of working with her.”

Dr. Chung's research interests included inherited retinal diseases and genetic factors contributing to age-related macular degeneration. As part of the University’s Advanced Retinal Imaging Alliance (ARIA), she specialized in developing optics technologies to study early cellular changes in macular diseases. 

Former Chair of Ophthalmology Steven E. Feldon, M.D., said that Chung was the first faculty member he recruited after coming to Rochester in 2001 to found what is now Flaum Eye Institute.

“Mina’s patients definitely experienced ‘Medicine of the Highest Order’ from her, day in and day out,” said Feldon, who is now Associate Vice President of URMC and Director of the Biomedical Research and Development Office. “She immediately understood the potential clinical impact of ophthalmic imaging research on her patients with hereditary and acquired retinal degenerations. A diminutive person with an outsized mind and heart, Dr. Chung will forever have a special place in the ethos of the Flaum Eye Institute.”

Chung is survived by her husband, Edward P. Lin, M.D., M.B.A., an associate professor in the URMC Department of Imaging Sciences who specializes in neuroradiology. At the time of the accident Lin was with his wife in Italy. The couple lived in Canandaguia and had a beloved pet white Samoyed dog, Nika, whom Chung often brought to the office.

Memorial service arrangements will be announced at a later date. In the meantime, dozens of colleagues, former colleagues, and patients have left messages on a memorial website,

Here are a few examples.

  • “Mina was a dedicated retina specialist and a kind and caring person with a great sense of humor. She provided clinical guidance throughout my postdoctoral time in Rochester and was key to my recent research project. Mina, your ARIA family across the planet misses you dearly. We will always remember your big smiles.”
    - Dr. Christina Schwarz, Ph.D., former student of Chung, Junior Research Group Leader, Institute for Ophthalmic Research, University of Tübingen, Germany
  • “In the clinic, Dr. Chung was thorough, exact, and absolute. No corners could be cut and no detail left out; her patients and students are all the better because of it. I can’t fathom the number of people she has touched, not just directly, but indirectly through those she has taught. Outside of the clinic, Mina was inclusive, fun, exciting, and her sense of humor was classy and fantastic. She made me feel like April Fools’ Day was a holiday. The void that has been left cannot be filled.”
    - Wayne E. Davis, D.O., former student of Chung, specialist in ophthalmology at Boone Hospital Center, Columbia, MO
  • “Dr. Chung gave sight to my son when every other doctor said there was no hope left. Our hearts are broken for her family, coworkers and friends.”
    - Mother of a former patient