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Leadership Q&A with Dr. J. William Harbour

J. William Harbour, M.D.
William Harbour, M.D.

William Harbour, M.D.
Chair of Ophthalmology

J. William Harbour, M.D., joined UT Southwestern in November 2021 as the new Chair of Ophthalmology. He succeeds Professor Emeritus James McCulley, M.D., who led the Department for 40 years before retiring June 30, 2021, as Chair.

A Dallas native, Dr. Harbour is happy to return to his roots to play a role in shaping the future of medicine at UTSW. A clinician-scientist with a busy clinical/surgical practice and an active laboratory, Dr. Harbour was recruited from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, where he served as Vice Chair for Translational Research at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and as Associate Director for Basic Science at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. Much of his research has focused on uveal melanoma and retinoblastoma, the most common eye cancers in adults and children, respectively. His work has led to the discovery of several genetic events associated with tumor progression and metastasis. He has developed new surgical methods for intraocular biopsy, radioactive plaque surgery, and vitrectomy in eyes with intraocular tumors.

What is your vision for the Department?

I’m fortunate to be starting with a large, vibrant Department with a strong foundation, which is a tribute to Dr. McCulley’s leadership. We have a strong, busy clinical faculty, very good clinical facilities, a strong training program, and great researchers. My goal is to take advantage of those strengths and the growth in the region to take it to the next level.

Why did you decide to join the faculty of UTSW?

A big reason was the exciting growth happening here. I grew up in Dallas, and I can remember when the Medical School was just at the South Campus. The North Campus was only open fields. When I came back to visit my family, it was exciting to see a vibrant medical center there. With the growth of the area’s population, there’s a real opportunity in my field to make UT Southwestern into a major referral center for hundreds of miles around. I am also looking forward to developing collaborations with world-class experts at UT Southwestern in several fields to develop synergy with my own.

What is exciting in the field of ophthalmology now?

There’s been a revolution in care in the last decade. Many diseases, like macular degeneration, used to inevitably lead to blindness but can now be treated. Many of these advances have been spurred by cutting-edge research in proteomics, genetics, and pharmacology. My passion is turning advances in the lab into advances in patient care. I think UT Southwestern is really poised to lead in a lot of these areas.

What role does philanthropy play in achieving your departmental goals?

Philanthropy is critical to my goal for the Department of Ophthalmology to become a preeminent destination for ophthalmic care, education, and research in Texas and nationally. Philanthropy allows us to recruit leading scientists and surgeons, offer exceptional training opportunities, and procure resources that in turn allow us to provide unsurpassed medical care to our patients. No person in Texas with an eye or vision problem, no matter how serious or complex, should have to travel beyond UTSW to find the best ophthalmic care available anywhere.

Dr. Harbour holds The David Bruton, Jr. Chair in Ophthalmology.
Originally published in "Pathways - Spring 2022 - UT Southwestern, Dallas, TX"