One of the most coveted awarded lectures in ophthalmology, the honor recognizes outstanding achievements in improving cataract surgery through education or innovation. This October, Werner will receive the award and present her lecture at AAO’s annual meeting in Chicago.
As co-director of the world-renowned Intermountain Ocular Research Center based at Moran, Werner vets new intraocular lens (IOL) technologies worldwide and conducts critical research on related complications. Her work has established foundational knowledge regarding interactions between ocular tissues and IOL design, materials, and surface modifications.
"What makes this year’s award especially exciting is that Liliana is the first woman to receive this recognition," said Nicole Fram, MD, AAO Cataract Subcommittee Chair. "She and her colleagues at Moran have answered complex ophthalmological questions by taking an interest in unanswered clinical presentations in cataract surgery and then translating the findings to bench research where etiology, treatment, and prognosis are then defined."
Leading the way in intraocular lens research
Originally from Brazil, where she completed medical school and an ophthalmology residency, Werner moved to Paris for a retina fellowship at Hôtel-Dieu de Paris. While there, her interest shifted to research as she entered a doctorate program focusing on IOLs.
After completing her four-year doctoral program, she moved to Charleston, South Carolina, for a fellowship in the laboratory of David J. Apple, MD. Apple eventually moved his lab to the University of Utah, where his work on IOLs had started with Randall J Olson, MD, CEO of the Moran Eye Center. Olson and the late Apple, both pioneers in IOL research, are former Kelman Award recipients. A third Moran faculty member, the late Alan S. Crandall, MD, received the award in 2017.
"Dr. Werner makes us all proud," said Olson. "On top of leading the way in IOL research, she is a brilliant writer, speaker, and extraordinary role model. I could not be more pleased that she is the fourth Moran ophthalmologist to receive the Kelman Award."
David F. Chang, MD, a clinical professor at University of California, San Francisco, and a former Kelman awardee, described Werner as "one of the world’s foremost authorities on IOL design, biocompatibility, and histopathology."
"Through her research, papers, chapters, and lectures, she has devoted her career to improving IOL design and safety," he continued. "It has become almost standard practice for industry to bring new IOL designs to Professor Werner and Moran for pre-clinical study. No one in ophthalmology works harder, and she is tremendously deserving."
Breaking new ground
Werner joined Moran in 2002 and has authored more than 360 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters, co-edited three books, and received numerous awards in international meetings for scientific presentations, videos, and posters. She has also presented at conferences in more than 25 countries. The Ophthalmologist magazine in 2021 named Werner one of the "Top 100 Women in Ophthalmology."
She broke ground in 2020 as the first woman and the first Latina to hold the position of U.S. Associated Editor for the Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery (JCRS). She serves as Moran’s Vice-Chair for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.
"To be selected as the Kelman Lecturer at the AAO meeting is a great honor," said Werner. "That means that my peers consider my contributions to the knowledge in the field of ophthalmology to be significant. Receiving this award is just wonderful after many years of hard work. When I consider the list of those lecturers before me, the honor I feel as the 2022 Kelman lecturer is immense.
"In addition, I feel a great responsibility for being the first woman and the first person from a minority group underrepresented in medicine to deliver this prestigious lecture," she continued. "I cannot thank the AAO Subcommittee for Cataract enough for this award. I am also grateful to all at the Moran Eye Center for giving me the opportunity to grow professionally."
As a former Kelman Lecturer, Samuel Masket, MD, a clinical professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine, Stein Eye Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, said he was thrilled to have Werner "join the club."
"She has brought a stellar level of diligence and intellectual curiosity to the laboratory study of contemporary cataract/IOL surgery, allowing clinicians a microscopic understanding of how the eye tolerates or doesn’t tolerate our surgery," he said. "This, in partnership with industry, brings better products to our patients. In publishing prolifically, her work is so very impactful, reaching ophthalmologists worldwide. Along with research partner Nick Mamalis, they provide a most welcome and valuable service to the international cataract community. I am very pleased and excited for her to receive this well-earned honor."