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Liliana Werner

The Power List 2020 – Power List


MD, PhD, Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Co-Director, Intermountain Ocular Research Center, John A. Moran Eye Center, University of Utah

If you had three wishes, what would they be? 

To have unlimited resources to perform research on all unanswered questions regarding IOL implantation; then, develop an IOL that, besides exhibiting features such as excellent biocompatibility, clarity, and optical quality, would also allow for insertion through very small incisions, non-invasive multiple and reversible power adjustments, and accommodation; then, make this IOL available to ALL.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?  

I would certainly tell myself to recharge energies and find comfort and encouragement during hard times in the immeasurable love and support of my parents, Heron and Nilma; I would tell myself to have patience and perseverance, to remain open to unexpected opportunities as they may turn out to be wonderful, and therefore to not fear change. I would also tell myself to be around people who inspire and built others up.

What was the most serendipitous OR funniest moment of your career?  

After medical school and residency in ophthalmology in Brazil, I went to Paris for a retina fellowship. Two years into the fellowship, I was approached by one of the professors of the ophthalmology department (Hôtel-Dieu de Paris) about a PhD program. I thought this would be great for my CV, and more importantly, it would allow me to stay in Paris for at least 4 more years… The funny part is that the initial project was on a tissue glue! As this project was not going as expected, I was later directed to another project, for which funding was available, and the new project was on surface modification of IOLs. Through the research done during this program, I really entered for the first time in contact with the IOL world, and became fascinated by these devices that can be implanted inside of the eye remaining transparent and functional throughout a lifetime, and decided to make a career out of it.

What was the most unexpected turn your career took? 

When I was almost finishing my PhD in Paris, my thesis director suggested me to go to the US spend a year in the laboratory of David Apple, which at the time was in Charleston, SC. It was supposed to be only a year, and I would go back to Paris. However, 6 months into the fellowship, Dr. Apple was diagnosed with cancer, and I ended up being invited to stay longer, obtaining the status of Visiting Assistant Professor. Dr. Apple had started working on IOL research at the University of Utah with our chair, Randall Olson. Therefore, after spending 3 and 1/2 years in Charleston, we moved the laboratory back to Salt Lake City, and I ended up making my career at the Moran Eye Center, an absolutely great center! Today I have the honor to occupy the office that belonged to Dr. Apple when he was faculty at the Moran.


Part of the Power List 2020

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From ocular oncology to tackling neglected diseases, our 2020 Power Listers are making their mark on ophthalmology – and beyond.

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