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Top Doctors in Nashville: Sean Donahue, MD

Meet the chief of Pediatric Ophthalmology at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt — Dr. Sean Donahue. (Jun 2013)

Written By:  Melissa Carro

Photographers:  

Sean Donahue does plenty of running—and not just in the traditional sense. As an assistant Boy Scout troop master, father of four boys, and chief of Pediatric Ophthalmology at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, Donahue’s required pace is indisputable. Part of Donahue’s adrenaline rush comes from one key statistic: currently, around 70 percent of all children in Tennessee under age 5 have vision screenings. This is due to the work of Lion’s Club International and the system and technology that Donahue has spent his career developing.

“Over half a million children in Tennessee have had their vision screened in the last 15 years,” says Donahue. “That’s critically important because a screening can detect amblyopia which is the leading cause of vision loss in people under 20.”

According to Donahue, amblyopia is very easily treated if diagnosed before age 5. It was in pursuit of his PhD at Emory that Donahue was drawn to the field of brain development. Then in medical school, Donahue became interested in how the human visual system develops.

Pediatric ophthalmology was an area that put animal-based and laboratory research to use to directly help patients. Like every avid runner, Donahue won’t quit until the race is over—that is, when all Tennessee children are screened before the age of 5. That goal may seem lofty, but the Affordable Care Act gives Donahue hope.

“The bill mandates that vision services be provided for children,” explains Donahue. “That’s the good news. On the other hand, the legislation doesn’t specify what services or who will provide them. The guidelines have not been set.” Yet.

Donahue is working with the American Academy of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus and the American Association of Pediatricians to establish appropriate guidelines. “I’m glad I’m able to help drive the bus,” says Donahue.

Undoubtedly Donahue will continue to try to raise the number of young eyes being screened. Perseverance, after all, is a big part of who he is. He did, after all, finish the Country Music Marathon in spite of the rain.

As seen in Top Doctors in Nashville issue, 2013

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