J. Martin Heur, MD, PhD, professor of clinical ophthalmology and vice chair of the Department of Ophthalmology, has agreed to serve as interim chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, effective Sept. 16. 

Heur, who was also recently appointed to the Charles C. Manger III, MD, Chair in Corneal Laser Surgery, is a physician-scientist who specializes in diseases of the cornea and the anterior eye. He also currently serves as the medical director and director for cornea and refractive surgery service for the USC Roski Eye Institute, part of Keck Medicine of USC.

Heur is also highly involved in basic research on the corneal endothelium, where he is interested in elucidating the way corneal endothelial cells react to injury. His innovative hypothesis of differential regulation of mesenchymal transition could lead to novel therapies for corneal blindness that will decrease the reliance on obtaining donor corneas. There are not many research groups in the world working in this area because of inherent technical difficulties in manipulating the corneal endothelium in the laboratory. From that perspective, insights gained from his investigations are likely to prove particularly important for the future understanding and treatment of corneal endothelial disease.

Other areas of research investigation include developmental biology of the corneal epithelium, regulatory pathways critical to development, molecular characterization of dry eye disease phenotypes, and factors important in long term corneal graft preservation during endothelial keratoplasty. He and his collaborators have published more than 50 peer-reviewed publications in scientific and clinical specialty journals, and he continues to actively contribute to a number of NIH- and foundation-funded programs.

Heur takes over for Narsing Rao, MD, the Grace and Emery Beardsley Chair in Ophthalmology. Rao will become interim dean of the Keck School on Sept. 15.

Heur has been committed to the success of educational programs in ophthalmology as well, serving as the director for the Cornea, External Disease and Refractive Surgery Fellowship, a member of the clinical competency committee and member of the residency program evaluation committee for the last eight years. He has mentored more than 25 fellows, research fellows, medical students and residents. In 2017, he received the Teacher of the Year award from his residents.

Heur completed both his MD and PhD degrees as a graduate of the MSTP program at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. He completed his internship in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, his ophthalmology residency at the Cole Eye Institute of the Cleveland Clinic and completed a clinical fellowship in cornea, external disease and refractive surgery at the USC Department of Ophthalmology/Doheny Eye Institute. Heur was recruited to the Keck School in 2009.