Our History

The University of Alberta Department of Ophthalmology and Rhino-Oto-Laryngology was established in 1937, and approved by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada for a 4-year postgraduate program in Ophthalmology in 1949.

Dr. Robert Wells was the first ophthalmologist and Head of Ophthalmology at the University of Alberta Hospital from 1923 to 1936 and was succeeded by Dr. Claude Jamieson till 1940.

Dr. Mark Marshall was Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology from 1940 to 1960 and was also the Director of Graduate Medical Training at the University of Alberta (U of A). Marshall played a major role in establishing many of the residency programs at the U of A in addition to ophthalmology. In 1944, Marshall (then Levey) was also a member of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada Nucleus Committee in Ophthalmology which was organizing to begin offering Certification (1946) and Specialist (1947) exams in Ophthalmology. Marshall also helped established the Anesthesia, General Surgery, Internal Medicine, Neurosurgery, Obstetrics, Gynecology, Orthopedic Surgery, Otolaryngology, Pathology, Bacteriology, and Urology residencies at U of A.

The Residency Training Program at the U of A was set up with the needs of returning Veteran physicians in mind. The Department's first resident, Dr. J. Winston Duggan, trained from 1946-1948 in Edmonton, with an additional year at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. Duggan returned to Edmonton and joined the U of A as an Instructor in Ophthalmology. Duggan (along with Marshall himself) was one of the first students of ophthalmology at the U of A who trained there, and abroad and returned to share their knowledge with future generations of students. Duggan was appointed Director of the Division of Ophthalmology in 1960.

Dr. T. “Alastair” Boyd became Director of the Division of Ophthalmology in 1964, and then Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology in 1969. The subsequent chairs were Dr. Henry Wyatt (1980-1992), Dr. Ian MacDonald (1992-2006, 2009-2014), and Dr. Karim Damji (2014-2021). Dr. Ian MacDonald is a world-renowned authority in choroideremia and heritable eye disorders, and a former Branch Chief of Ophthalmic Genetics and Visual Function at the National Institutes of Health. Under MacDonald’s leadership, the U of A ophthalmology program was consolidated as a regional program at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in 1996 with additional clinical sites at the Stollery Children’s Hospital, Westview Health Centre, and the Fort Saskatchewan Community Hospital. Dr. Karim Damji, a glaucomatologist, also trained in ocular genetics strongly advocated global ophthalmology and leadership development. MacDonald and Damji were instrumental in expanding the regional ophthalmology program as the Eye Institute of Alberta in 2015 with 47 staff ophthalmologists. The Department organized and executed the first clinical trial of ocular gene therapy in Canada in 2015.

The interim chairs essential to the success of our department were Dr. Michael Walter (2002-2003), Dr. Gary Drummond (2007), Dr. Mark Greve (2008), Dr. Ian MacDonald (again in 2022), and Dr. Chris Rudnisky (2023). Dr. Rudnisky is the undergraduate program director at the University of Alberta, chief examiner for the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons Ophthalmology exam board, and helped Dr. Matthew Tenant develop the long-standing teleophthalmology program.

Dr. Edsel Ing, an oculoplastic surgeon, strabismologist, and neuro-ophthalmologist was recruited from the University of Toronto, and in 2023 was appointed as Professor and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Alberta, and the Edmonton Zone Chief of Ophthalmology for Alberta Health Services for a 5-year term.

As residency program director Dr. Carlos Solarte marshaled our highly-ranked training program for 9 years, and in 2023 handed over the reins to Dr. Hermina Strungaru.

Further details on the history of the Department of Ophthalmology can be found at: