UAMS Jones Eye Institute Glaucoma Specialist Receives Chair

By Nate Hinkel

Irak Dersu, M.D., associate professor of ophthalmology and director of glaucoma services, received the John W. Nutt Chair in Ophthalmology at the April 30 investiture ceremony held in the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute.

“We’re extremely proud to have someone with Dr. Dersu’s expertise serving as a researcher, doctor and educator here at the Jones Eye Institute,” said Christopher T. Westfall, M.D., director of the UAMS Jones Eye Institute (JEI). “She is certainly a great fit for this honor and her work in all three of those categories is a great benefit to those we serve both now and into the future.”

The John W. Nutt Chair in Ophthalmology was established with a gift from Nutt and his family and close personal friends to benefit research, education and patient care in the field of glaucoma, an eye condition from which he suffered most of his adult life. He was honored at the ceremony by JEI Founding Director John P. Shock, M.D.

“He was a longtime supporter of the College of Medicine, Department of Ophthalmology and UAMS as a whole,” said Shock, distinguished professor & chair of the JEI Department of Ophthalmology. “Mr. Nutt was a leader in the development of the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute.  He served as the founding chairman of the JEI Advisory Board and served five years as the chair during the planning and construction of JEI.”

Nutt graduated from Arkansas Tech University in 1957 where he was inducted in their Hall of Distinction in 1973 and honored with the title of Presidential Fellow in 2005.  After serving four years in the military as a paratrooper and ranger, he returned to North Little Rock to become president of the J. W. Nutt Company, a commodities brokerage firm founded by his father, J. W. “Jack” Nutt. 

Dersu, who joined UAMS in 2005, earned a medical degree from the Hacettepe University School of Medicine in Ankara, Turkey and a Master of Public Health degree from the UAMS Faye W. Boozman College of Public Health. Following a four-year ophthalmology residency program in Ankara, Dersu completed a glaucoma research fellowship from 1994 to 1996 under the world-renowned glaucoma expert Robert Weinreb, M.D., at the University of California at San Diego. Her research involved using a prototype of a scanning laser to detect changes in the eye’s optic nerve. The laser is now used in clinics worldwide. Dersu completed a clinical fellowship in glaucoma at the Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah, ranked as one of the ophthalmology education programs in the nation following her ophthalmology residency at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. She became board certified by the Arkansas Board of Ophthalmology in 2002.

Dersu’s research interests include improving quality of life and quality of care in glaucoma patients.

“I am honored to have the ability to see and treat patients and educate students,” Dersu said. “Research is a big part of making improvements in both those areas, and I am thankful to have the means to continue striving for better outcomes and quality care in those dealing with glaucoma.”

Dersu has presented her research findings at several national meetings and has authored many papers. She was a Patient Care Improvement Project Award recipient in 2006, which is given by American Glaucoma Society to the 10 best ideas nationwide among ophthalmologists. She serves on the national Quality, Efficiency, and Performance Assessment Subcommittee of the American Glaucoma Society Patient Care Committee.

Dersu is actively involved in teaching ophthalmology residents and medical and ophthalmic medical technology students. She currently serves as course director for the junior clerkship of medical students in neurology, neurosurgery and ophthalmology.

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Related Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a statewide network of regional centers; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Translational Research Institute. Named best Little Rock metropolitan area hospital by U.S. News & World Report, it is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has more than 2,800 students and 775 medical residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including about 1,000 physicians and other professionals who provide care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. Visit or