Doctors of HMRI
The doctors of HMRI have trained at the most well known and recognized centers for retinal research in the world, bringing back the finest expertise in retinal disease to Hawaii. The expertise here at HMRI and the qualifications of its doctors would be welcomed at leading retina programs and Eye Institutes anywhere in the nation, but these doctors and their research team have chosen to live in Hawaii and to make HMRI a respected and impactful retina research program recognized now throughout the world.
Dr. Gregg T. Kokame, is the initial founder of HMRI in 1993 and has been the medical director of HRMI since its inception, leading its research and education programs. Dr. Kokame trained at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute (BPEI) in retinal diseases and surgery – the nation’s #1 ranked ophthalmology program according to US News and World Report for the past 20 years. BPEI was also the birthplace of modern vitreoretinal surgery, and home to some of the most well known retina specialists in the history of ophthalmology. Dr. Donald Gass is considered the
father of medical retinal diseases. Dr. Kokame was honored and humbled to receive the Gass Medal for the most prestigious retina society in the nation – the Macula Society. The Gass Medal has been given in the past to recognized leaders in medical retina and to many chairman of the most prestigious eye institutes in the nation, including Wilmer Eye Institute in Baltimore, Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia, Bascom Palmer Institute in Miami, and Massachusetts Eye and Ear – Harvard Ophthalmology in Boston. Dr. Kokame has been Chief of Ophthalmology at the University of Hawaii John A Burns School of Medicine since 2020.
Dr. Kokame also did a Visiting Professor Sabbatical in both medical and surgical retina at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, where world renowned retina research has been performed at the Institute of Ophthalmology, and where Dr. Kokame worked with some of Europe’s greatest leaders in retinal disease management and research. Dr. Kokame also lectured at Moorfields Eye Hospital during his time there. Dr. Kokame went to medical school at the UCLA School of Medicine and graduated in the honors society, Alpha Omega Alpha, did his ophthalmology residency at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA in Los Angeles, California, which has always been considered the top ophthalmology program in the western United States, and did his retinal medical and surgical fellowship at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, Florida.
In 2015, Dr. Kokame made international news for being the first surgeon to perform the Argus II Bionic Implant in the Asia Pacific region. You can read about it here.
In December of 2021 Dr. Kokame performed the first gene therapy in Hawaii. This gene therapy
allowed the eye to produce its own medicine to treat exudative macular degeneration. You can
read about it here.
Dr. Sarah Read is Assistant Medical Director of the Hawaii Macula and Retina Institute. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from New York University College of Arts and Sciences and graduated Summa Cum Laude as a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. She received her M.D. from Tufts University, where she graduated at the top of her class with Alpha Omega Alpha distinction. During medical school, she received numerous awards including the American Women’s Association for academic achievement. While at Tuft’s University, she also completed a PhD sponsored by the National Institute of Health developing novel gene therapies in the treatment of retinal diseases.
She completed her ophthalmology residency at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, Florida, the number one residency and eye hospital in the country. While at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, she was selected as Chief Resident. As Chief Resident, Dr. Read completed a Vitreoretinal fellowship and then served as Director of Ocular Trauma and Chief of Services for the residency program. She strongly values the importance of research and teaching, as she continues to pursue the best care for her patients.
She was awarded the Heed Fellowship for her outstanding research and dedication to the field of ophthalmology. Dr. Read specializes in the latest techniques for the medical and surgical management of macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, retinal detachment, macular hole, retinal vascular disorders, and macular pucker. Dr. Read has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals and book chapters and spoken at several national meetings.
Dr. James C. Lai trained at the renowned Wilmer Ophthalmological Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, which has been the foremost leader in ophthalmology programs for most of the history of ophthalmology. Many of the chairman at major departments across the country and leaders in ophthalmology have trained at Wilmer. Dr. Lai himself was a leader at Wilmer, being Chief Resident for the program. Dr. Lai did his retinal fellowship training at the Duke Eye Center, where modern vitreoretinal surgical techniques were pioneered, and published significant research from his work there at Duke.
Dr. Lai performed the first Iluvien implant for DME in the state of Hawaii. You can read about it here.
Dr. Raymond Wee trained at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary at Harvard for his ophthalmology training, which is one of the best academic ophthalmology departments in the world. Dr. Wee distinguished himself there by becoming the Director of the Ocular Trauma Service and Chief Resident for the program. Dr. Wee was also an instructor at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Wee trained at the Barnes Retina Institute at the Washington University School of Medicine in Saint Louis, one of the leading retina training programs in the USA, and where pioneering vitreoretinal surgical ideas were developed by the retinal surgeons there.