Mina Chung, MD was born on December 1, 1968, in Westchester County, New York and was a dedicated and talented ophthalmologist and retina specialist throughout her career. Dr. Chung graduated from Yale University in 1990 and the Yale School of Medicine in 1994; she completed her ophthalmology residency at the University of Southern California Doheny Eye Institute in 1998 and a fellowship in vitreo-retinal disease at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in 2000. She then served as junior faculty at the University of Southern California where she focused on pediatric retinal care and surgery. Dr. Chung then joined the faculty as an Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at the Flaum Eye Institute at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York. She brought to Flaum invaluable expertise in adult and pediatric retinal surgeries and was a key member of their pediatric artificial corneal transplant team. She and Dr. Ajay Kuriyan worked together to implant the first retina prosthesis in New York. Dr. Chung served as Vice Chair of Women in Retina and was a member of several organizations, including the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), the American Society of Retina Specialists (ASRS), and the Association of Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO).
Friend and colleague, Steven Feldon, MD, recounted that “Mina was an inspiration for medical students, residents, fellows and junior faculty. Her patients definitely experienced ‘and director the highest order’ from her, day in and day out.” He described “her relationships with patients as unsurpassed.” David A. DiLoreto, MD, PhD, Chair of Ophthalmology and Director of the Flaum Eye Institute, praised Dr. Chung for her dedication to patients, saying that “Mina was one of the most dedicated and hardworking physicians I have ever known.” Raj Maturi, MD believed Dr. Chung “stood out not only for her tremendous surgical talent and skill, but also her deep humanity and caring.” David Williams, PhD, former Director of the Center for Visual Science, characterized Mina’s pivotal role in research at Rochester: “For many years, Mina was an essential member of a team of research faculty and students, providing much-needed and always insightful mentorship on the myriad diseases afflicting the retina, and how best to deploy new high-resolution imaging technologies to study them.”
Indeed, in addition to her superlative clinical contributions, Dr. Chung pursued an innovative research program on two complementary fronts. First, she was dedicated to understanding the genetic basis for inherited retinal diseases such as age-related macular degeneration. While at the Flaum Eye Institute, Dr. Chung was so committed to the molecular aspect of her work that for over three years, she spent one week per month at the University of Iowa, where she maintained a long-standing collaboration with some of the most innovative experts in this field. To permanently recognize her contributions to inherited retinal disease, the University of Iowa established the Mina Chung Fellowship in Inherited Retinal Disease in 2022.
Second, Dr. Chung’s research program combined her interest in genetics with the use of retinal imaging to characterize the impact of genetic defects on the retina. She was particularly interested in bringing the extraordinary adaptive optics capabilities of the University of Rochester to bear on the pathophysiologic mechanism of these conditions. She partnered with world-class engineers and vision scientists at Rochester, bringing to the team critical clinical wisdom based on her extensive experience with vision-threatening diseases. Together they obtained some of the first high-resolution adaptive optics images of the retinas of patients with retinal degeneration, developing novel ways to image cone photoreceptors in-vivo of patients with age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of irreversible vision loss in older patients, and Stargardt disease, the most common form of macular degeneration in children and young adults. Supported by funding from the National Eye Institute and the National Institute of Health, Dr. Chung’s research advanced the field by illuminating changes to the cells responsible for vision that had not previously been visible in living eyes. Dr. Chung contributed important papers on a wide range of inherited retinal conditions including Best disease, cone-rod dystrophy, tritanopia, retinitis pigmentosa, Batten disease, macular telangiectasia, Leber congenital amaurosis, fundus albipunctatus, and Stargardt disease. As a testament to her dedication to research and patient care, the Flaum Eye Institute established Dr. Mina M. Chung Endowed Professorship in 2021.
In addition to her passion for medicine, Dr. Chung was an accomplished pianist and a graduate of The Juilliard School Pre-college division, as well as an avid marathon runner, with her last marathon in Greece when she turned age 50. Dr. Chung is survived by her husband, Edward P. Lin, MD, MBA, an associate professor in neuroradiology at the University of Rochester Medical Center Department of Imaging Sciences. The couple lived with their Samoyed, Nika, in Canandaigua, NY, where Dr. Lin still resides.
Dr. Chung passed away on February 13, 2020, in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Dolomites, Italy due to a skiing accident.
Contributions from Drs. Steve Feldon, Dave Diloreto, Raj Maturi, Ed Stone, Jacque Duncan, David Williams, and Aravindh Nirmalan.
Read additional personal reflections on Dr. Chung in this Retina Times article: ASRS Remembers Women in Retina Vice Chair Mina Chung, MD.