Joan O’Brien, MD, an Ophthalmologist with Scheie Eye Institute – Penn Presbyterian

Joan O Brien MD


Get to know Ophthalmologist Dr. Joan O’Brien, who serves patients in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


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(Spin Digit Editorial):- New York City, New York Sep 26, 2022 ( – Dr. O’Brien is recognized as a top ophthalmologist by the U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, Philadelphia Magazine, and Castle Connolly. She has been serving as the George E. deSchweinitz and William F. Norris Professor of Ophthalmology & Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania since January 2010.

A Penn Medicine physician, she is the Director of the Scheie Eye Institute, specializing in the treatment of ocular tumors, including retinoblastoma, ocular melanoma, conjunctival malignancies, ocular metastases, and ocular and CNS lymphoma.

Treating patients ages 18 and up, she also holds privileges at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania & Penn Presbyterian Medical Center.

Originally from Boston, Dr. O’Brien graduated with her medical degree from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in 1986. She then completed an internship in internal medicine at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston in 1987, followed by research fellowships in immunology at Harvard Medical School, and in molecular ophthalmic pathology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and the Whitehead Institute at MIT. She subsequently completed a residency in ophthalmology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in 1992, and an ocular oncology fellowship at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) in 1993.

Subsequent to her training, in 1996, the doctor attained board certification in ophthalmology through the American Board of Ophthalmology (ABO). The ABO is an independent, non-profit organization responsible for certifying ophthalmologists in the United States of America.

Drawing on decades of expertise in medicine and education, Dr. O’Brien is a member of a number of organizations include the following: the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Association for Cancer Research, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Medical Women’s Association, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the American Society of Retina Specialists, the Apogean Society-Oculoplastics Society, the Aspen Retinal Detachment Society, the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology-Anatomy/Pathology Section, the Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology, the California Academy of Sciences, the California Physicians Alliance, the Center for Childhood Cancer Research, the Children’s Oncology Group of NCI, Clinical Research Forum, the Consortium of Universities for Global Health, the Doris Duke Foundation, the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer, Eyes of Africa Consortium, FasterCures, A Center of The Milken Institute, the Frederick C. Cordes Eye Society, the Global Genes Project, the Greater Philadelphia Ophthalmic Society, the Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics, the Institute of Medicine, the International Association of Women, the International College of Surgeons, the International Council of Ophthalmology, the International Society for Eye Research, International Society of Ocular Oncology, International US Surgeon, the Joint European Research Meetings in Ophthalmology and Vision-Ophthalmic Oncology Group, the Massachusetts Medical Society, the Federal Advocacy for Ophthalmologists and Patients, the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR) / Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (AEVR), the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR), the National Association of Professional Women, the National Association of Professional Women, the National Cancer Institute, the International Cancer Information Center, the National Eye Institute, NCI Study Committee, the Neuroscience Graduate Group, Ophthalmic Women Leaders (National and International), ORBIS, Penn Center for Global Genomics & Health Equity in the Department of Genetics, Penn Forum for Women Faculty, Penn Medicine Biobank Committee, the Northern California Association (Phi Beta Kappa), the Philadelphia College of Physicians, the National Ophthalmic Disease Genotyping Network (National Eye Institute), Research to Prevent Blindness, The European Society for Medical Oncology, The Hospital & HealthSystem Association of Pennsylvania, The Macula Society, The Pan-American Association of Ophthalmology, The Penn Club of New York, The Union League of Philadelphia, the Vanguard Network for Life Sciences Leaders, and Women in Ophthalmology.

Ophthalmology is a branch of medicine and surgery, that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of eye disorders. Ophthalmologists are experts in the diseases, functions, and anatomy of the eye. Ophthalmologists are also surgeons. They repair traumatic injuries to the eye and may perform cataract, glaucoma, and corneal surgery.

A prominent researcher, Dr. O’Brien has extensive expertise in the study of the genetics of ocular diseases, including retinoblastoma, melanoma, and glaucoma. Her laboratory has identified numerous unique pathogenic variants in the retinoblastoma gene (RB1). This testing has allowed retinoblastoma therapy to be directed according to underlying genetic risk and is offered nationwide at no charge to patients through NEI’s eyeGENE initiative.

Directing a research laboratory with next-generation sequencing and high-throughput, automated Sanger sequencing capabilities, Dr. O’Brien focuses on translational genetics research with an emphasis on molecular sub-classification and endophenotyping of ocular disease. Currently, she is the primary investigator on an $11.25 million 5-year Primary Open Angle African American Glaucoma Genetics (POAAGG) study.

Dr. O’Brien has 15 years of National Cancer Institute-funded leadership roles in clinical trials and phenotype validation for all retinoblastoma studies administered through the Children’s Oncology Group (COG). Over the past five years, in collaboration with colleagues at UCSF, the group has discovered and characterized two novel oncogenes (GNAQ, Nature 2009 and GNA11, NEJM 2010) which regulate the MAP kinase pathway. This has allowed Dr. O’Brien’s uveal melanoma patients to have personalized and targeted therapy with MEK inhibitors, providing prolongation of life for these patients with widely metastatic melanoma.

The author of more than 250 publications, Dr. O’Brien’s work has recently appeared in Nature, the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and the Journal of Clinical Investigation

A visionary in her field, she has been recognized by Castle Connolly America’s Top Doctors, 2009-2020; recognized by Newsweek Best Cancer Doctors in America, 2015-2020; recognized by US News & World Report Best Doctors, 2019-2020; recognized in Philadelphia Magazine Top Cancer Doctors, 2020; and recognized in Philadelphia Magazine Top Docs, 2018-2021.

Among her other noteworthy accomplishments include the Women in Ophthalmology Suzanne Veronneau-Troutman Award; American Academy of Ophthalmology Senior Achievement and Secretariat Awards; Laureate Award; the Gertrude D. Pyron Award; induction into the American Ophthalmological Society; and election to the National Academy of Medicine.

Learn More about Dr. Joan O’Brien:
Through her findatopdoc profile,, or through PennMedicine,

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