Our Team

Our Team- Hoover Low Vision

Dr. SunnessJanet S. Sunness, MD

Medical Director

Specialist in low vision, macular and retinal disease, and visual function testing

MIT, BS degrees in physics and in electrical engineering, 1974

Albert Einstein College of Medicine, MD degree 1978

Brookdale Hospital Medical Center, internship and ophthalmology residency, 1979-1982

Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, fellowships in medical retina and in visual function and clinical electrophysiology testing,  1984-1990

Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, on faculty at Associate Professor level through 2004

Research grants
Principal Investigator on the largest prospective natural history study of advanced dry age-related macular degeneration (geographic atrophy), funded by NIH 1992-2000, at Wilmer.

Principal Investigator on NIH-funded grant to determine whether the connections to the visual cortex of the brain change when a patient has blind spots in his central vision from macular disease, 2003-2009.  She published the first report of using functional MRI imaging to determine how the visual cortex behaves in patients with blind spots from macular degeneration.

Co-investigator on a number of other NIH grants

Grants from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, John Mitchell Trust, Research to Prevent Blindness, the Macula Society, the Macula Foundation, AFAR (American Federation for Aging Research)


Low Vision 
Dr. Sunness has been one of the pioneers in understanding how patients must adapt when they develop blind spots in their vision.  At Hoover, she provides comprehensive evaluations and visual function testing, as well as low vision evaluation, and treatment by Susan Garber, our low vision occupational therapist.  Dr. Sunness sees patients with a wide variety of conditions, including macular disease, retinal disease, glaucoma, optic nerve disease, and corneal disease.  She also is actively engaged in clinical research in low vision.

Dry age-related macular degeneration 
Dr. Sunness is recognized as one of the world's foremost authorities on the advanced dry form of age-related macular degeneration (also called geographic atrophy).  She conducted the largest natural history study of this condition, and her work has served as the basis for designing clinical trials for possible treatments for this condition.  Hoover Services offers a comprehensive evaluation, retinal examination, and low vision treatment.

Stargardt disease (macular degeneration in young people) 
Dr. Sunness is one of 4 or 5 ophthalmologists specializing in this condition in the United States.  She follows about 150 patients with this condition.   Hoover Services offers a comprehensive evaluation, retinal examination, and low vision treatment.  She has a collaboration with Dr. Rando Allikmets, the person who discovered the abnormal gene in Stargardt disease, to provide genetic testing.  She keeps abreast of the exciting advances in gene therapy that may lead to clinical trials for Stargardt disease in the next decade.  She would like to establish a Stargardt Center at GBMC, to provide comprehensive care and a research center for this condition.

Retinitis pigmentosa 
Dr. Sunness also follows many patients with RP.  Hoover provides clinical visual function and electrophysiological testing, along with a full retinal evaluation and low vision evaluation and treatment.

Other macular and retinal disease 
Dr. Sunness also follows many patients with wet macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and other hereditary and acquired macular and retinal diseases.

Dr. Sunness completed the summer genetics course at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, in 2000.  She collaborates with a number of geneticists who are studying ocular diseases, and arranges for genetic testing for her patients.  DNA analysis of her patients has provided insight into possible genetic factors predisposing to macular degeneration.

Dr. Sunness is an author of 55 peer-reviewed papers, and is first author on 33 of these.  She has written more than 20 chapters in books relating to retinal and macular disease and visual function.

Michelle Bianchi
Certified Low Vision Occupational Therapist 


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