Meet Dr. James McCulley
Chair of Ophthalmology

Holder of the:
The David Bruton, Jr. Chair in Ophthalmology

When James P. McCulley, M.D., became Professor and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at UT Southwestern Medical Center in September 1981, the Department included physicians in three of the nine ophthalmic subspecialties. Today, thanks to relentless clinical expansion and strong faculty recruitment over three decades, the Department is able to offer patients care in all areas of ophthalmology: cornea and external disease; cataract and refractive surgery; glaucoma; uveitis and ocular immunology; vitreoretinal and macular disease; ophthalmic plastic surgery; neuro-ophthalmology; pediatric ophthalmology; ophthalmic oncology; ophthalmic pathology; and vision care (glasses and contact lenses and low-vision aids).

“We truly offer ‘one-stop,’ coordinated, comprehensive eye care covering all ophthalmic subspecialties and are the only place in North Texas to do so,” says Dr. McCulley. 

We are making major advancements against diseases that once resulted in blindness. Not only can we stabilize many of these disorders, we can reverse them.”

Dr. McCulley is an internationally recognized specialist in the evaluation and treatment of corneal diseases that affect the eye. One of the most innovative areas in ophthalmology, he says, is corneal transplantation. The procedure, which used to replace the entire cornea, has been modified to preserve healthy, disease-free tissue. Known as lamellar surgery, the technique has many benefits for the patient.

“Lamellar surgery has given us a better understanding of preventing and treating corneal graft rejection, which increases the chances of success after surgery. Leaving more of the patient’s own healthy corneal tissue intact reduces the likelihood the transplant will be rejected,” says Dr. McCulley.

The close proximity to UT Southwestern’s Transplant Services Center is an added advantage for ophthalmologists. “We are fortunate to have this full-service eye bank, which is recognized as a world leader, right here on campus,” he says.

Another important procedure that continues to develop is LASIK surgery. As a member of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Ophthalmic Devices Panel of the Medical Devices Advisory Committee, Dr. McCulley was among a handful of physicians who worked with the FDA during the LASIK clinical trials approval process. He has been part of LASIK’s continual evolution, from using a microkeratome (blade) to create the corneal flap, to bladeless, all-laser LASIK.

Despite its technological advances, LASIK remains a surgical procedure requiring the utmost skill. Dr. McCulley stresses that although more surgeons are performing LASIK, not all surgeries are done safely. He consistently reminds people to be aware of who is performing the procedure – the surgeon’s credentials and training, their outcomes for patients, and the extent of their experience and research. And he has put together a list of the top 10 questions every LASIK surgeon should answer for their patients. 

“People need to know what to look for and what to be aware of when considering LASIK,” he says. “I want to be sure they have the best information available.” 

Clinical Interests

  • Keratorefractive surgery
  • Cataract surgery and lens implants
  • Corneal transplantation