URMC Refractive Surgeon Selected for International Award

Jul. 15, 2016

Scott MacRae, MDScott MacRae, M.D., director of the Refractive Surgery Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Flaum Eye Institute, was recently tapped to receive the Jose I. Barraquer Lecture and Award from the International Society of Refractive Surgeons (ISRS), a partner of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. The award, named after the father of refractive surgery, is a top honor for refractive surgeons who have made significant contributions to the field and who demonstrate dedication to advancing the science of refractive vision correction.  

In over 25 years as a refractive surgeon, MacRae has performed more than 20,000 refractive procedures, trained over 400 refractive surgeons from around the world, and helped develop several new refractive surgery instruments and techniques – including a personalized system for laser vision correction. He also holds the patent for the Rochester Nomogram, a complex system of measurement for visual abnormalities that immensely improved the success rate of custom laser vision correction.

Before joining the University of Rochester Medical Center in 2000, MacRae had 16 years of prior experience as a corneal specialist at Oregon Health Sciences University. There, he encountered several corneal transplant patients who had vision issues after their operation that could not be explained using conventional measurement systems. At the time and for 200 years prior, ophthalmologists could measure only three things: nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism – all considered “low order aberrations”.

Meanwhile, David Williams, Ph.D., dean for research of Arts, Sciences, & Engineering and William G. Allyn Professor of Medical Optics at URMC, changed that by developing the Zywave™ wavefront sensor with Bausch & Lomb. Wavefront sensor technology could measure a whole spate of corneal and lens irregularities that were previously virtually undetectable. These “higher order aberrations” were the cause of the post-operative vision issues in MacRae’s corneal transplant patients.  

Laser beam on eye

“When I heard about Dave's work,” MacRae recalls, “I knew that if he could measure the aberrations, I could put a laser spot anywhere on the cornea and correct out that error. What I didn’t understand at the time was that Dr. Williams’s approach would lead to the greatest innovation in ophthalmic optics in 200 years.”

Half of all people have higher order aberrations severe enough to impair their vision, which cannot be corrected with glasses, contacts or conventional refractive surgery.  MacRae’s refractive surgery team at the Flaum Eye Institute worked with Bausch & Lomb in the development and testing of an individually customized system for LASIK surgery in an FDA trial. According to MacRae, the Zyoptix™ Personalized Vision Correction system was conceived through “the synergy of a clinician teaming up with a talented group of basic scientists”. He shares credit for this technological and medical advance with URMC’s professors of Ophthalmology David Williams, Ph.D., Geunyoung Yoon, Ph.D., and Krysel Huxlin Ph.D., and UR Professor of Optics, Wayne Knox Ph.D.

This translational synergy and the technological advances of the past 25 years that have advanced LASIK surgery will be a focal points of MacRae’s keystone lecture at next year’s American Academy of Ophthalmology meeting. He will be presented with the Barraquer award at the ISRS session of the American Academy of Ophthalmology annual meeting this October.