Dr. Janis Holt and surgical technician Desirae Palmer examine the donor corneal transplant.

A small group of staff members and other medical personnel watched intensely as Dr. Janis Holt, aided by her surgical team, performed a corneal transplant in the Plateau Surgery Center located within Cumberland Eye Care in Fairfield Glade.

Since joining Cumberland Eye care in December 2013, Holt has now twice performed this relatively new procedure for two local residents who had lost their sight. During the nearly hour-long surgery, Holt removed a small portion of the patient’s cornea, later replacing it with a patch of circular shaped donor tissue about the thickness of paper and smaller in diameter than a U.S. dime.

Holt successfully operated on Mary Hudspeth of Crossville in January and preformed the second procedure on Audrey Goodin of Fairfield Glade in mid-February.  Both praised Holt not only for her technical surgical skills, but her encouragement and engaging personal interest.  “She was great,” said Mrs. Hudspeth. “She gave me back my sight,” said Goodin.

The cornea is the transparent, dome-shaped, outermost layer that covers the iris and pupil in the front of the eye. It acts as the entry point for light into the eye. When light strikes the cornea, it is bent, or refracted, onto the lens. Next, the lens refocuses the light onto the retina, a layer of light-sensing cells lining the back of the eye.

Until a few years ago, patients with diseases of the cornea required an extensive surgery where the entire cornea was replaced. Newer techniques, like the one performed by Holt, allow the surgeon to replace only a thin layer of the patient’s cornea. 

Unlike earlier procedures, such as a full-thickness corneal transplant, this surgery was performed with only a single suture. In the immediate post operative period after this surgery, the newly transplanted corneal tissue is held in position with an air bubble placed inside the eye. Within a few days, the transplant bonds to neighboring tissue and the air is slowly absorbed by the patient’s eye.

Surprisingly, using this advanced procedure, most patients like the local recipients, recover functional vision in a few months as opposed to up to a year with full-thickness corneal transplants.

Holt is a practiced medical doctor who specializes in comprehensive eye care, as well as cataract surgery and corneal transplantation. Prior to joining Cumberland Eye Care she served as a clinical assistant professor at the University of Florida Deparment Of Ophthalmology in Gainesville. During her tenure there, she also started a cornea service at the V.A. Medical Center of North Florida and South Georgia.

Holt received her Doctor of Medicine from Saint Louis University School of Medicine in 2001. She completed her training in ophthalmology at the University of Florida and went on to specialize in corneal transplantation at Washington University in St. Louis. Holt has seven specific ophthalmic certifications and has authored more than a dozen academic and research papers. She and her husband, Doug, presently reside in Fairfield Glade.

Dr. Stewart Galloway established Cumberland Eye Care in 2000. It was the first medical practice to locate in Fairfield Glade. With a focus on state-of-the-art surgical care and the convenience offered by an outpatient facility, Galloway opened Plateau Surgery Center in 2009. The medical practice and surgery center serve thousands of patients from Cumberland County and surrounding areas each year. Both facilities are at 57 Fairfield Blvd. in Fairfield Glade.