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Debra Schaumberg, OD, MPH, ScD

Languages spoken: English

Academic Information

Departments: Ophthalmology/Visual Sciences - Adjunct Professor

Academic Office Information

Board Certification

  • National Board of Examiners in Optometry
Debra A. Schaumberg, ScD, OD, MPH is Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, and Associate Director for Clinical and Epidemiological Research at the University of Utah Moran Center for Translational Medicine, John A. Moran Eye Center. She also holds an appointment as Adjunct Professor of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. Debra is an active member of several professional organizations and is also a Fellow of both the American Academy of Optometry and the American College of Epidemiology, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society. She has frequently been called upon for review and advisory committees and has served on the editorial boards of professional journals. She is the recipient of numerous research grants including from the National Institutes of Health, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, Fight for Sight, Harvard Medical School, and Industry. She has also been an advisor to numerous pharmaceutical and biotech companies.

Dr. Schaumberg received her OD from the Illinois College of Optometry, MPH from the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health (Wilmer Public Health Ophthalmology program), and ScD from the Harvard School of Public Health, where her concentration was in genetic/molecular epidemiology. Dr. Schaumberg is an expert in epidemiology and the joint influences of genetic, molecular, and lifestyle risk factors in causing eye disease. She has made important contributions to our understanding of age-related eye diseases, including a longstanding focus on age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and dry eye disease. Clinical experience and two decades of experience in the design and conduct of clinical and epidemiological research studies inform her work, which has been published in major peer reviewed journals including all of the major ophthalmology journals as well as Diabetes, Circulation, Nature Genetics, PLOS One, and JAMA. She was a member of the Steering Committee for the landmark Report of the International Dry Eye Workshop (DEWS), and Committee chair for epidemiology for the International Meibomian Gland Dysfunction Workshop. Dr. Schaumberg was also invited to brief the US Congress on her findings relating to the interplay between genetic predisposition and lifestyle factors in causing eye disease.

She has done extensive studies on the genetics of AMD in cohorts such as the Physicians’ Health Study, Women’s Health Study, Nurses’ Health Study, and Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Dr. Schaumberg conducted important work that implicated inflammatory/immune-mediated processes in the pathogenesis of AMD using a unique resource of 1300 prospectively ascertained cases of AMD and over 3000 matched control subjects from the large Harvard cohort studies. Her investigations identified a three-fold risk of AMD among those with elevated circulating C-reactive protein, and associations with other biomarkers of inflammation. Dr. Schaumberg subsequently investigated a number of candidate genes for AMD, including complement factor H and other complement proteins, ARMS2/HTRA1, retinoic acid receptor (RAR)–related orphan receptor gene (RORA), vitamin D pathway genes, and ROBO1, among others. Dr. Schaumberg has been testing a number of hypotheses regarding potential gene-gene and gene-environment interactions that could help disentangle the complexity of AMD pathogenesis. Her most recent work implicates the CX3CR1 fractalkine receptor gene with elevated risk of AMD.

In addition to her work on AMD, Dr. Schaumberg has made several contributions in dry eye disease that have enhanced our understanding of this disease and laid the groundwork for a more informed development of therapeutic strategies. She investigated the distribution and determinants of dry eye disease in the US, identified several important risk factors including age, female sex, diets low in omega-3 fatty acids or with a high ratio of omega-6:omega-3 fatty acids, and use of several medications including postmenopausal estrogen therapy, antidepressants, antihypertensives, and medications to treat benign prostatic hypertrophy. Her work has also helped define the impact of dry eye on quality of life and visual functioning.

Education History

Doctoral Training Harvard School of Public Health
Epidemiology, minor in Biostatistics and Genetics
Fellowship Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School
Ophthalmic Epidemiology
Fellowship Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
Preventive Ophthalmology
Graduate Training Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health
Public Health and Epidemiology
Residency Westside Veterans Administration Medical Center
Professional Other Illinois College of Optometry