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Subspecialties Retina, Retina, Basic & Translational Research

On a Different Path

At a Glance

  • Ophthalmic pathology might be one of the less common ophthalmic specialisms, but it is no less crucial
  • Here, two leaders in the field share their career journeys and overview their day-to-day work
  • Sarah Coupland shares what inspired her to enter the field of ophthalmic pathology, and provides an insight into her work on ocular oncology
  • Hans Grossniklaus discusses balancing his pathology and research roles with being an ocular oncologist, and shares what is exciting in the field right now.

A Vision for Pathology: Sarah Coupland

Director of the North West Cancer Research (NWCR) Centre, Liverpool; Professor and George Holt Chair of Pathology at the University of Liverpool and Honorary Consultant Histopathologist at Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, UK; and former Vice-President of ARVO.

Specialism: Ocular oncology

Key inspiration: “I have always had a fascination about human biology and physiology, and understanding the mechanisms behind them. Pathology is essentially the understanding of what alterations occur in these processes to initiate disease, and enables a methodological and scientific approach to better diagnose and treat the conditions.”

Notable memories: “Recently receiving the International Council of Ophthalmology (ICO) Ophthalmic Pathology award at the World Ophthalmology Congress (WOC) in Barcelona, Spain. This award is only given out every four years, and it is a huge honor to receive it.”

What inspired you to enter ophthalmic pathology?

My father was a medical oncologist and my mother a nurse, so I grew up with “medical speak” over the dinner table – it almost became second nature to me. I always wanted to study medicine, and after graduating from Medicine in Sydney, I moved to Berlin, and began a PhD in ophthalmology – I was interested in specializing in this field because of its fine surgery. My PhD examined the immune mechanisms involved in corneal rejection and how these could be influenced by various immunosuppressive drugs. I performed corneal transplantations in rats, followed by histological and immunohistological examination of their eyes. And that’s how I rediscovered my enthusiasm for the morphological understanding of disease mechanisms, and how they could be modified by treatment.

After completing my PhD, I did a three-month elective with William Lee in Glasgow – a period during which I finally made the decision to specialize in histopathology. I then spent seven years training in general pathology with Harald Stein at the Charité Benjamin Franklin, Berlin – at that time a referral center for lymphomas, head and neck surgery and ophthalmic tumors – and emerged with a number of pathology subspecialties under my belt.

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  1. I Ahmed et al. “The interaction of uveal melanoma (UM) with hepatic stellate cells (HSC)”. Presented at ARVO; April 28–May 3, 2018; Honolulu, HI, USA.
  2. S Coupland et al., “Liver fibrosis and metastatic uveal melanoma (mUM)”. Presented at ARVO; April 28–May 3, 2018; Honolulu, HI, USA.
  3. AG Roberston et al., Cancer Cell, 32, 204–220 (2014). PMID: 28810145.

About the Author

Sarah Coupland and Hans Grossniklaus

Sarah Coupland is Director of the North West Cancer Research (NWCR) Centre in Liverpool; Professor and George Holt Chair of Pathology at the University of Liverpool and Honorary Consultant Histopathologist at Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, UK; and former Vice-President of ARVO.
Hans Grossniklaus is Interim Vice Chair at the Emory Eye Center; F. Phinizy Calhoun Jr. Professor of Ophthalmology; Director, L.F. Montgomery Pathology Laboratory; Director, Section of Ocular Oncology and Pathology; Emory Eye Center, Atlanta, GA, USA.

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