A New Place for Family Eye Care


Joseph Neighbor

As the population of young families living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan has grown, so has the demand for local family- and child-centered eye care.

The Robert Burch Family Eye Center opened last year to address this need. Located at 15 W. 65th St. near Lincoln Center and Columbus Circle, the Burch Family Eye Center offers comprehensive primary and subspecialty vision care with a focus on pediatrics. Its amenities include a state-of-the-art diagnostic suite, five exam rooms, and two waiting rooms, one of which is reserved for children and families.

The center is ColumbiaDoctors Ophthalmology’s third and newest site, joining the Gloria and Louis Flanzer Vision Care Center on the East Side and the Edward S. Harkness Eye Institute in Washington Heights.

The Burch Center is a significant and necessary expansion of Columbia’s pediatric services. “Many people aren’t aware that pediatric ophthalmology is a service that we provide at Columbia because it’s been so low-profile,” says Steven E. Brooks, MD, chief of pediatric ophthalmology and professor of ophthalmology (in pediatrics) at CUMC. “We’re trying very hard to make our services accessible, something that is particularly important for busy parents.” Lauren Yeager, MD, another board-certified, fellowship-trained pediatric ophthalmologist on the faculty at Columbia, will also see patients at the Burch Center.

Though the Burch Center focuses on primary vision care, its close relationships with other departments at Columbia and the Harkness Eye Institute allow it to co-manage children with rare conditions, such as pediatric tumors, glaucoma, cataracts, or retinal disease. Specialists in pediatric endocrinology, genetics, neurology, and rheumatology—whose specialties overlap with many ocular syndromes—are all available for collaboration at Columbia.

The Burch Center also works closely with Lighthouse Guild International, a nonprofit devoted to helping blind or vision-impaired children, especially those with multiple disabilities. The Burch Center and the Lighthouse Guild share space at 15 W. 65th St., where the Lighthouse Guild provides low-vision rehabilitation, mental health counseling, and educational programs. It is just the newest form of a long collaboration. First-year ophthalmology residents spend several days at the Lighthouse Guild as part of their training in low vision.

As part of a major academic institution, research into pediatric eye diseases is a major component that Dr. Brooks would like to grow and develop. The division participates in an NIH-funded study looking for genes involved in retinopathy of prematurity, the leading cause of blindness in infancy.

As the division grows, the Burch Center will play an increasingly important role in providing children access to ColumbiaDoctors pediatric ophthalmologists.

Pediatric ophthalmologists are in short supply in Manhattan and throughout the nation, a problem Dr. Brooks wants to address with the creation of a pediatric ophthalmology fellowship. “Pediatric ophthalmology is a specialty that is in great demand, and Columbia should provide an outstanding place for training the next generation of specialists,” says Dr. Brooks.

The Burch Center can be contacted at 212-342-2870. Appointments may be scheduled by calling 212-305-9535. More information about ophthalmology at Columbia or the Harkness Eye Institute: www.columbiaeye.org