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Outstanding Female Leader in Ophthalmology | Nov/Dec '21

Outstanding Female Leader
in Ophthalmology:
Jenny Y. Yu, MD, FACS

Dr. Yu is a Cofounder of Project Theia, a 501(c)(3) organization focused on oculoplastic surgery and education in global communities. She helped to start the Allegheny County chapter of Women in Ophthalmology (WIO) and has an adjunct affiliation with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center as Clinical Assistant Professor.

Please share with us your background.

I am fortunate to have moved around while growing up as an only child to Chinese immigrants. It has given me a worldly perspective as an adult. Mostly I grew up in southern California, and I attended George Washington University in Washington, DC. I ultimately transferred to The Ohio State University and graduated with honors with distinction in biochemistry.

During my training, I spent time conducting spinal cord injury research in an immunology lab led by Brad Stokes, PhD, and Phillip Popovich, PhD. This experience shaped my desire to always be involved in research. I continued my research while attending The Ohio State University for medical school and did not decide to pursue ophthalmology until much later. There is truth to how mentors are important in life: I attribute my interest in ophthalmology to Paul Weber, MD. After choosing to pursue this specialty, I completed my residency and fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).

After training, I took the opportunity to stay on at UPMC as an academic clinician. I married my husband and had two daughters all within the first 5 years of my career. In addition to having a busy oculoplastics practice seeing both adults and children, I collaborated with scientists on research and took on administrative roles as an Associate Program Director and Vice Chair for a period.

In 2017, I started Project Theia, a 501(c)(3) organization with a focus on global oculoplastic needs, with my then fellow, Katie Duncan, MD. In its short existence, Project Theia has made an impact in Kenya, Ghana, India, and Honduras. We are currently in the midst of scaling our footprint.

I have since left full-time academia and am pivoting my career focus.

What is the focus of your recent research?

My research is broad. I am interested in restoring orbital volume using new materials. I also have an interest in understanding the timing of congenital ptosis repair in children in relation to visual development. With my global efforts, I am working to collect data on needs, access, and outcomes for oculoplastic services in various communities.

What has your experience been collaborating with industry?

I have had a positive experience collaborating with industry. I think it is important to be involved in educational events. It is also important to take clinical problems and challenges and partner with industry’s resources to make progress. The industry consumers are our patients, and, as providers, we can play an important role in ensuring expert messaging.

In your opinion, how is the role of women in ophthalmology evolving?

I see more female ophthalmologist on podiums, in committees, and involved in advocacy at the local and national levels. That is great progress from when I entered the field more than 10 years ago. Female trainees are advocating for themselves, and women leaders are setting an example. I am loving the current supportive energy in ophthalmology.

What hurdles do you feel women in health care still face?

Time is always a hurdle. We are all in a balancing act of career, family, and self-care, and there is just not enough time to do it all. We often must make compromises with ourselves for it to work. Bias and a healthy working environment are also ongoing challenges for women in health care. When educational events and meetings are scheduled between 6:00 PM and 8:00 PM, that is the system not acknowledging this time as a crucial window (eg, dinner and bedtime) for many women physicians with young children.

What advice can you offer to young female ophthalmologists who are still in training or just beginning their careers?

Every phase of your career will require a different version of yourself. Know what is important for you and your family in planning your short-term and long-term goals. The beginning of one’s career can coincide with the beginning of one’s family. Focusing solely on our careers can cause us to forget the other buckets of our life—family and well-being—and risk burnout. I would suggest taking the time to consider your career with the lens of personal life in front.

Can you propose a unique or creative idea that may help women in ophthalmic practices?

Women tend to feel guilty about life’s balancing act. I would propose that, once you set your goals, leave the guilt behind. Surround yourself with others who are having similar experiences by being involved in organizations such as Women in Ophthalmology (WIO). We all need reminders that we are on the same journey. Build your own personal board of advisors—these are your trusted individuals who can advise you on your career, finances, and life in general.


  • Kapoor S, Eldib A, Hiasat J, et al. Developing a pediatric ophthalmology telemedicine program in the COVID-19 crisis. J AAPOS. 2020;24(4):204-208.e2.
  • Lathrop KL, Duncan K, Yu J, et al. Development of corneal sensation with remodeling of the epithelium and the Palisades of Vogt after corneal neurotization. Cornea. 2020;39(5):657-660.
  • Yu JY. Eyelid hygiene requires more attention. Healio News. August 2020.
  • Mukhtar S, Yu J. iOCT use in oculoplastics surgery. Integrated OCT use in Pediatric Ocular Surgery. Karger; 2020.
  • Wang E, Yu J. In: Ellis E, Zide MF, eds. Surgical Approaches to the Facial Skeleton. 3rd ed. Wolters Kluwer; 2018.
  • Ross A, Chan AA, Mihm M, Yu J. Endocrine mucin-producing sweat gland carcinoma: an uncommon presentation. Semin Ophthalmol. 2017;32(4):511-513.
  • Ares WJ, Tonetti D, Yu JY, et al. Gamma knife radiosurgery for uveal metastases: report of three cases and a review of the literature. Am J Ophthalmol. 2017;174:169-174.
  • Duncan KE, Wang EW, Fernandez-Miranda JC, Yu JY. The utility of image guidance in developing minimally invasive periorbital approaches of the skull base. J Neurol Surg B. 2017;78(S1):S153-S154.
  • Fu R, Kancherla S, Eller AW, Yu JY. Characteristics and outcomes of open globe trauma in the urban versus rural population: a single center retrospective review. Semin Ophthalmol. 2017;5:1-5.
  • Sorrentino D, Taubenslag KJ, Bodily LM, et al. Superior ophthalmic vein thrombosis: a rare complication of Graves’ orbitopathy. Orbit. 2017;20:1-4.
  • Duncan KE, Yu JY. Blepharoplasty. In: Fonseca RJ, ed. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. Vol 3. Elsevier; 2017.
  • Duncan KE, Yu JY. What about the eyelids? In: Mah F, Rhee M, eds. Dry Eye Disease: An Up-to-Date Practical Guide. Thorofare, NJ: Slack; 2017.
  • Davis KS, Vosler PS, Yu J, Wang EW. Intraoperative image guidance improves outcomes in complex orbital reconstruction by novice surgeons. J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2016;74(7):1410-1415.
  • Davidson EH, Wang EW, Yu JY, et al. Clinical considerations for vascularized composite allotransplantation of the eye. J Craniofac Surg. 2016;27(7):1622-1628.
  • Davidson EH, Wang EW, Yu JY, et al. Total human eye allotransplantation: developing surgical protocols for donor and recipient procedures. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2016;138(6):1297-1308.
  • Yu JY. The aging face: care and treatment options. Advanced Ocular Care. July/August 2015.
  • Yu JY. In your head: what do you anticipate being a go-to product f or your practice in 2015? MillennialEYE. March/April 2015.
  • Yu JY. Thyroid orbitopathy part 1: further study of correlation needed. Ocular Surgery News. October 2013;31(19).
  • Yu JY. Thyroid orbitopathy part 2: different phases of disease need different treatments. Ocular Surgery News. October 2013;31(20).
  • Yu JY. Facial rejuvenation treatment arsenal continues to expand. Ocular Surgery News. August 2013;39(15).
  • Yu JY. Is pain management necessary in the oculofacial area when injection botulinum neurotoxins and dermal fillers? Ocular Surgery News. August 2013;39(15).
  • Friberg TR, Gupta A, Yu J, et al. Ultrawide angle fluorescein angiographic imaging: a comparison to conventional digital acquisition systems. Ophthalmic Surg Lasers Imaging. 2008;39(4):304-311.
  • Yu JY, Kahook MY, Schuman JS, Lathrop KL, Noecker RJ. The effect of probe placement and type of viscoelastic material on endoscopic cyclophotocoagulation laser energy transmission. Ophthalmic Surg Lasers Imaging. 2008;39(2):133-136.
  • Friberg TR, Yu JY. Choroidal and retinal folds. In: Albert D, Jakobiec F, eds. Principles and Practice of Ophthalmology. Elsevier; 2006.
  • Popovich PG, Yu JY, Whitacre CC. Spinal cord neuropathology in rat experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis: modulation by oral administration of myelin basic protein. J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 1997;56:1323-1338.


  • American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) | 2004–Present
  • Pittsburgh Ophthalmological Society (POS) | 2004–Present
  • American Glaucoma Society (AGS) | 2007–Present
  • Pennsylvania Academy of Ophthalmology (PAO) | 2008–Present
  • American Board of Ophthalmology (ABO) | 2015–Present
  • American College of Surgeons (ACS) | 2015–Present
  • North American Skull Base Society (NASBS) | 2016–Present
  • Association of Research and Vision in Ophthalmology <(ARVO) | 2017–Present
  • World Society of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (WSPOS) | 2017–Present


  • Chief Resident Award, Department of Ophthalmology, The Ohio State University | 2010
  • Honors, Ophthalmology Clinical Clerkship | 2002
  • Letter of Commendation, Ob/Gyn Clinical Clerkship | 2002
  • Letter of Commendation, Surgery Clinical Clerkship | 2002
  • Letter of Commendation, Neurology Clinical Clerkship | 2001
  • Student Travel Award, American Academy of Neurology <(AAN) | 2001
  • Roesseler Summer Research Fellowship, College of Medicine and Public Health, The Ohio State University | 2000
  • Student Travel Award, National Neurotrauma Society | 2000
  • Outstanding Poster Award, Denman Undergraduate Research Forum, The Ohio State University | 1999