Margolis named Wolff Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology

Todd P. Margolis, MD, PhD, head of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, has been named the new Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Margolis also is ophthalmologist-in-chief at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

Margolis became the new head of ophthalmology in January and was installed as the Wolff Professor this spring by Washington University Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton and Larry J. Shapiro, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

“Dr. Margolis is a world leader in the diagnosis and treatment of infectious and inflammatory eye diseases, and he’s currently working to develop techniques to bring that expertise to underserved populations around the world,” said Wrighton. “He joins an elite group of physician-scientists who hold Wolff Professorships at Washington University.”

Gifts from the Wolffs have supported medical research at the university for more than three decades, providing endowment funding to leaders in several different fields.

“We are very pleased that Dr. Margolis has brought his clinical expertise, research skills and educational acumen to the School of Medicine,” Shapiro said. “And we’re equally grateful for the generosity of the late Alan and Edith Wolff that is helping advance his efforts to more accurately diagnose and treat patients around the world.”

Margolis came to Washington University from the University of California, San Francisco, where he was a professor of ophthalmology and the Rose B. Williams Chair for Research in Corneal Diseases. He also directed the Francis I. Proctor Foundation for Research in Ophthalmology, a privately endowed organized research unit dedicated to research and training in infectious and inflammatory eye diseases and the application of that research to the prevention of blindness worldwide.

Research in Margolis’ laboratory focuses on the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate the establishment and maintenance of latent neuronal infection with herpes simplex virus (HSV). His ongoing research is aimed at documenting the role of neuronal and viral gene expression in the establishment and maintenance of HSV latency. The ultimate goal of this work is to gain enough understanding about the regulation of HSV infection that therapeutic interventions can be devised to eliminate infections or prevent reactivation of the virus.

He also has done extensive research into the development and evaluation of molecular diagnostics for infectious eye disease and on the use of telemedicine to screen for retinal diseases in developing countries. A current project involves using a small camera, linked to a smart phone app, to identify eye disease in underserved populations of patients in Thailand and India.

“Since my arrival at Washington University, I have been pleased to work alongside so many great colleagues, both among the ophthalmology faculty and throughout the School of Medicine,” Margolis said. “And I’m very honored to have been chosen to be a Wolff Professor.”

Todd P. Margolis, MD, PhD, speaking during the installation ceremony at which he was named the Wolff Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology. (Credit: Mark Beaven)

Margolis is a 1977 graduate of Stanford University. He subsequently received a doctorate in neuroscience and a medical degree from UCSF in 1984. After an internship in San Francisco, he trained as a resident in ophthalmology at UCSF and later did subspecialty training in corneal and external diseases at the F.I. Proctor Foundation. Later, he completed postdoctoral research training in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at UCLA, where he served as a visiting assistant professor at the Jules Stein Eye Institute.

He has been president of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), the world’s largest eye and vision research organization, and he has served on the National Eye Advisory Council of the National Eye Institute. He also is a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Uveitis Society and the Society for Neuroscience.

He is a recipient of the NIH National Research Service Award, the Jules Stein Vision Research Award, the Research to Prevent Blindness Lew R. Wasserman Merit and Senior Scientific Investigator awards and the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s Achievement Award. Margolis also is listed in the Best Doctors in America and in America’s Top Ophthalmologists.

Margolis serves on the editorial board of the American Journal of Ophthalmology. He also is a reviewer for Ophthalmology, Archives of Ophthalmology, Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science and The Journal of Infectious Diseases. He is an author on more than 130 peer-reviewed scientific papers and seven book chapters. During his tenure at UCSF, he served as a mentor or adviser for more than 100 students, fellows, residents, faculty and international scholars.

Alan and Edith Wolff owned Wolff Construction Co., a real-estate development, investment and management company. Alan Wolff founded the company in the 1940s and led it until his death in 1989. Edith Wolff then took up leadership as the company’s president until her death in 2008.

Over the course of more than 30 years, gifts from the Wolffs have supported many areas of research at the School of Medicine, including projects involving Alzheimer’s disease, heart transplantation, bacterial sepsis infection, dermatology, cell biology and critical care medicine. They have provided funding for 12 endowed professorships, six distinguished endowed professorships and specific research funds in cancer and ophthalmology. Their donations also support the Edith L. Wolff Scholarship Loan Fund, a noninterest-bearing fund for medical students.

In 2007, Edith Wolff committed $20 million to establish the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Institute at the School of Medicine, with the goal of advancing the most promising biomedical research projects focused on preventing, treating and curing disease.

In recognition of her generous support of medical research, Edith Wolff received numerous awards from Washington University, including the Robert S. Brookings Award, the Second Century Award from the School of Medicine and an honorary doctorate in 2004.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient-care institutions in the nation, currently ranked sixth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.