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Children's Hospital Colorado Names Emily McCourt, MD, as Endowed Chair for Pediatric Ophthalmology

Children's Hospital Colorado Names CU Ophthalmology Associate Professor as Endowed Chair for Pediatric Ophthalmology

A gift from the Ponzio Family Foundation will support the work of Emily McCourt, MD, including the establishment of the region’s first pediatric genetic eye disease program.

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Written by Toni Lapp on August 10, 2022

Emily McCourt, MD, chief of pediatric ophthalmology at the Sue Anschutz-Rodgers Eye Center and Children’s Hospital Colorado, has been named the inaugural Ponzio Family Chair for Pediatric Ophthalmology at Children’s Colorado.

The $2.5 million gift from the Ponzio Family Foundation will support McCourt’s plans to establish a pediatric genetic eye disease program, which will be the first of its kind, not only at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, but in the region. The program, set to launch early 2023, will be based at Children’s Colorado. This will enable children with the difficult diagnosis of eye disease to receive care in a pediatric setting with multiple specialists. It will also create research opportunities to cure childhood blindness.

“The impact this gift will have on children with blinding eye diseases will be remarkable,” says McCourt. “One of my goals with this chair is to support subspecialties, such as glaucoma, cornea, and retinal diseases, within pediatric ophthalmology to get a level of care beyond what you can get anywhere else.”

In addition to McCourt’s contributions to Children’s Colorado as a researcher and clinician, she is a standout associate professor of ophthalmology at University of Colorado School of Medicine, according to Naresh Mandava, MD, chair of the CU Department of Ophthalmology.

“We are so proud of this very important recognition of Dr. Emily McCourt,” Mandava says. “She is a very skilled leader, gifted surgeon and educator, training some of the finest pediatric ophthalmologists in the country. She also has developed several research ideas, which have the potential to decrease the suffering of children who have developed visually debilitating diseases. She has dedicated her career to finding solutions for these children.”

“This gift continues the amazing support that the Ponzio family has given to Children's Hospital Colorado and the pediatric eye programs at the University of Colorado,” he continues.

When McCourt joined the CU School of Medicine faculty in 2011, she already had ample experience in education and working with children, having taught middle school science and health in the early 2000s.

“I really enjoyed teaching, and had a hard time leaving,” she says. “It was fun and fulfilling. A lot of hardworking kids inspired me. But I felt something was missing.”

In 2003, she left teaching to attend medical school at State University of New York at Buffalo. She went on to complete her residency at CU, where she became drawn to surgery as well as patient care – particularly in treating eye diseases in young patients to support their development.

“Ophthalmology provides the opportunity to do surgical care and also have long-term relationships with patients,” she explains. “Eyesight is important to reading, movement, and interpersonal social skills. The impact is greatest in pediatrics.”

She has held multiple leadership roles at CU Anschutz, including research director for pediatric ophthalmology. Her research interests include pediatric keratoconus focusing on patients with Down Syndrome, retinopathy of prematurity, and pediatric syndromic retinal dystrophies.

Receiving the endowed chair will enable McCourt to continue her life’s work.

“We’re going to make strides in both patient care and research,” she says. “It’s an honor to be able to create these programs for children of Colorado. Gifts like this are what really move forward special programs and accelerate our ability to do impactful research.”

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Emily McCourt, MD

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Naresh Mandava, MD