Claes Dohlman, MD, PhD, Ophthalmologist

Get to know Ophthalmologist Dr. Claes Dohlman, who serves patients in Boston, Massachusetts.

In a career that now spans seven decades, Dr. Dohlman stands as one of the most highly honored ophthalmologists in the world. Recognized as “The Father of Modern Corneal Science”, his work is considered “classic” literature on understanding corneal biology. His investigations of corneal physiology laid the groundwork for modern clinical practice in dry eye disease, management of corneal edema, corneal burns, wound healing, corneal transplantation, and keratoprosthesis. 

Now aged 97, Dr. Dohlman continues to work full-time to improve patient outcomes with the prosthesis. He is Emeritus Professor of Ophthalmology within the Department of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, and the Chief of Ophthalmology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear in Boston, Massachusetts. 

Born in Sweden, Dr. Dohlman earned his medical degree and his Doctorate (PhD) degree in Biochemistry from the University of Lund in Sweden, and completed his residency in ophthalmology in the Eye Clinic of the University of Lund. In 1958, he was recruited to work at The Retina Foundation Institute of Boston by former mentor and world-renowned retina surgeon, Dr. Charles Schepens, founder of the Institute (now Schepens Eye Research Institute). He was also asked by Dr. Edwin Dunphy, then Chief of Ophthalmology at Mass. Eye and Ear, to establish a Cornea Service at the Infirmary. 

In 1974, the same year he achieved HMS professorial status, Dr. Dohlman was appointed Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology of Harvard Medical School, Director of the Howe Laboratory of Ophthalmology, and Chief of Ophthalmology at Mass. Eye and Ear.

Passionate about his profession, the doctor is board-certified in ophthalmology by the American Board of Ophthalmology, an independent, non-profit organization responsible for certifying ophthalmologists in the United States of America. He is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Throughout his extensive career, Dr. Dohlman has trained first-hand over 200 cornea specialists—more than any other ophthalmologist in the world. His “real” contributions to ophthalmic education are incalculable considering the hundreds of second- and third-generation cornea specialists who have trained under his protégées, and the thousands more who have benefitted from his prolific contributions to corneal literature and science.

In 2007, the American Academy of Ophthalmology named Dr. Dohlman recipient of the Laureate Award— the highest honor possible to bestow by the Academy— in recognition of his contributions spanning many years of continuous service to the profession. The following year, he was again honored for his lifetime accomplishments in a Harvard Professorship (Claes H. Dohlman Professor of Ophthalmology).

Furthermore, the Dohlman Award, named after Dr. Dohlman, is given to recognize a lifetime of teaching excellence in the field of cornea and external disease and for contributions to the profession. His commitment to teaching and education has enabled many of his students to leave their mark on the field of ophthalmology.

Ophthalmology is a branch of medicine and surgery, which deals with the diagnosis and treatment of eye disorders. Ophthalmologists are experts in the diseases, functions, and anatomy of the eye. They may provide routine care such as vision testing, as well as prescribe and fit eyeglasses or contact lenses. However, ophthalmologists are also surgeons. They repair traumatic injuries to the eye and perform cataract, glaucoma, and corneal surgery.

A renowned researcher and clinician, Dr. Dohlman’s career reflects a remarkable number of firsts: he was first in the world to create an organized cornea subspecialty (Mass. Eye and Ear), first to create a formal structured cornea fellowship program (Mass. Eye and Ear and Schepens), first to recruit full-time cornea fellows to HMS, and first to pioneer a number of surgical innovations in keratoplasty and keratoprosthesis. His most notable achievement is the Boston Keratoprosthesis (KPro), an artificial cornea he first conceptualized in the 1960s and is now the most successful artificial cornea in the world with over 15,000 implantations to date. 

Dr. Dohlman retired from formal administrative roles in 1989. Today, he continues (full-time) to advise and mentor students and colleagues, and pursue multidisciplinary research to enhance clinical KPro outcomes. Despite a lifetime of achievement, he is remarkably self-effacing. While he acknowledges his numerous accomplishments, he prefers not to focus on what he has achieved, but rather what still needs to be accomplished— particularly in the area of KPro development. He continues to shape and set new standards for the field, and remains an inspiration to everyone in the Harvard community—and beyond.

Learn More about Dr. Claes Dohlman:
Through his findatopdoc profile, or through Massachusetts Eye and Ear,


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Karen Johnson

Karen Johnson is an Associate Content manager for FindaTopDoc and responsible for working with distinguished physicians in documenting their significant accomplishments in their field. Karen is a CPR instructor and is a member of her local theater group.