Pathology, defined as the study of suffering, is foundational in medicine as a field of general inquiry and research. But as a medical specialty, the practice involves the diagnosis and management of disease by means of laboratory methods.

VCU’s ophthalmic pathology service offers highly subspecialized patient care by providing tissue diagnostics for diseases of the eye and supports medical student education and resident training.

The practice of ophthalmic pathology is often associated with neuropathology, as the eyes are extensions of the brain, both anatomically and developmentally. Woon Chow, M.D., Ph.D., a board-certified neuropathologist with dual faculty appointments in the ophthalmology and pathology departments, specializes in pathologies of the central nervous system and ocular and periocular tissues. In the case of cancer, beyond establishing a diagnosis, he also determines the histologic grade and pathologic stage.

Woon Chow, M.D., Ph.D.

“One can think of ophthalmic pathology as the intersection of three other pathology subdomains: dermapathology, ENT pathology and neuropathology.”


Residents are exposed to ophthalmic pathology via a dedicated slide conference series, selected clinicopathologic correlation and grand round presentations, with the following objectives:

  1. Recognition of gross and microscopic features of common neoplastic and non-neoplastic conditions of the globe, orbit and periorbital region
  2. Basic understanding in the use of ancillary studies, including histochemical stains, immunohistochemical stains, flow cytometric analyses, cytogenetics and molecular testing
  3. Familiarization of histologic grading and pathologic staging of malignancies
  4. Appreciation of the value and limitations of intraoperative consultations by means of frozen section, touch imprints and smear preparations

Ophthalmology residents also learn the language of pathology, which is critical for interacting with pathologists in their future practice.

Learn more about the ophthalmology residency program

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As one of the only ophthalmic pathology providers in the region, we are proud to receive samples and offer our services to any health care providers seeking ophthalmic tissue diagnoses for their patients.

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