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May, 2009

Ask the Doctor

Can a doctor at the National Eye Institute examine my eyes?

Rachel Bishop.
Rachel Bishop, M.D.
Chief, Consult Services Section
National Eye Institute

Under certain circumstances, the answer is yes. The NEI's mission is to conduct and support research that leads to a greater understanding of vision and eye disease, and results in sight-saving treatments, says ophthalmologist Rachel Bishop, M.D. In keeping with that mission, you can be seen by NEI doctors if you fall into one of two categories:

  • You have an eye disease that is being studied by NEI researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Md. If you meet the criteria for a specific study, you can be enrolled in it and receive care at the NEI.
  • You are enrolled in a research study at another NIH institute, and you need to have your eye health monitored as part of that study.

As chief of the NEI Consult Services, Dr. Bishop cares for patients in the second category, those who need eye exams as part of non-NEI studies that evaluate treatments for a wide range of conditions, including cancer, AIDS and developmental disorders.

"We monitor for eye-related side effects of diseases and medications," she says.

Other NEI doctors conduct eye exams and treat people enrolled in studies at the NEI. This research addresses vision conditions including macular degeneration and eye inflammation, known as uveitis.

Dr. Bishop calls clinical studies "the essence of research." There is always a need for people to participate. While doctors often refer patients to the NEI, people are also welcome to inquire about studies and sign up on their own, she adds.

Find out more about participating in a clinical study at the NEI here, or call 1-800-411-1222.

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Department of Health and Human Services NIH, the National Institutes of Health