Yao Liu, MD, MS

Yao Liu, MD, MS

Assistant Professor, Director of Teleophthalmology

As a clinician-scientist, Dr. Yao Liu leverages new technology to enhance our understanding and management of glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and other vision-threatening eye diseases using imaging, telemedicine, and clinical trials of new medications and surgical devices. Dr. Liu is the Director of the UW Teleophthalmology Program, which aims to prevent blindness by expanding access to innovative eye care.

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Selected Appointments and Honors

Director of the UW Teleophthalmology Program
Chair, American Telemedicine Association Ocular Telehealth SIG
2021 ARVO Women’s Leadership Development Program
2019 Outstanding Surgical Instructor, Dept. of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health
2017 NIH Training Institute for Dissemination & Implementation Research in Health (TIDIRH)
2017 Chancellor’s Certificate of Recognition for the “Wisconsin Idea” Community Partnership
2016 Alliance for Eye and Vision Research Emerging Vision Scientist
2015 Outstanding Teacher to Resident Education, Dept. of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health

Subspecialty

Glaucoma and cataract surgery

Medical and Surgical Interests

  • Adult and pediatric glaucoma
  • Anterior segment surgery
  • Cataract surgery
  • Glaucoma medical and surgical treatment
  • Ocular imaging
  • Telemedicine

Research Interests

  • Clinical trials of new medications and surgical devices
  • Telemedicine for diabetic eye screening
  • Macular pigment as a glaucoma risk factor
  • Clinical and surgical glaucoma management

Research Highlights

Dr. Liu is a National Institutes of Health (NIH) K23-funded clinician-scientist championing telemedicine-based eye screening across Wisconsin and beyond. Her work has identified environmental, social, and individual factors that influence rural patient adherence to diabetic eye screening. These factors included limited access to health care, long travel distances, financial tradeoffs, and trust in their healthcare providers. Teleophthalmology can greatly increase diabetic eye screening and prevent blindness from diabetes (the leading cause of blindness among working-age U.S. adults) by addressing many of these factors. However, this technology remains greatly under-utilized. To address this gap, Dr. Liu worked with rural community partners to develop Implementation for Sustained Impact in Teleophthalmology (I-SITE), which guides primary care clinics on how to successfully integrate teleophthalmology into their practice. I-SITE is a coaching-facilitated program for tailoring teleophthalmology into primary care clinic workflows. At Mile Bluff Medical Center in rural Mauston, Wisconsin, I-SITE sustained a 35% increase in diabetic eye screening over 4 years. Dr. Liu is also studying whether low macular pigment levels are associated with an increased risk of glaucoma in the Carotenoids in Age-Related Eye Disease Study (CAREDS). Dr. Liu is conducting studies to determine whether low-cost dietary supplementation of lutein/zeaxanthin may prevent glaucoma. Her research on teleophthalmology implementation and low-cost interventions for glaucoma seeks to reduce the burden of avoidable blindness and visual impairment in our communities nationwide.
Factors influencing patient adherence with diabetic eye screening in rural communities: a qualitative study
Implementation for sustained impact in teleophthalmology (I-SITE) online toolkit
Sustaining gains in diabetic eye screening: outcomes from a stakeholder-based implementation program for teleophthalmology in primary care

Education

Fellowship: Glaucoma, University of California, Davis Eye Center, Sacramento, CA

Residency: Harvard Ophthalmology Residency Program, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

Internship: Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

Medical School: Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

Publications

For the most up-to-date publication list for Dr. Yao Liu, click here.

Grants and Monetary Awards


Current 

Title: Advancing Integration of Tele-ophthalmology for Diabetic Retinopathy in Rural, Multi-payer Settings
Source: NIH/NEI K23 EY026518
Total Award: $811,485
Award Dates: 4/1/16-3/31/21
Role: Principal Investigator
Percent of Effort: 75%
Description:  This study develops an implementation package to facilitate adoption of telemedicine for diabetic retinopathy in rural healthcare settings. Training in health services research includes M.S. in Clinical Investigation.

Title: Advancing Integration of Tele-ophthalmology for Diabetic Retinopathy in Rural, Multi-payer Settings Supplement
Source: NIH/NEI K23 EY026518-05S1
Total Award: $54,000
Award Dates: 4/1/20-3/31/21
Role: Principal Investigator
Percent of Effort: N/A
Description:  This administrative supplement supports pilot-testing of an implementation package to facilitate adoption of telemedicine for diabetic retinopathy in rural healthcare settings. The goal is to promote continuity of research among K awardees to help sustain the investigator’s research during critical life events.

Title: Advancing Integration of Teleophthalmology for Diabetic Retinopathy in Rural, Multi-payer Settings
Source: Univ. of WI Office of the Vice-Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education/ Life Cycle Award
Total Award: $40,000
Award Dates: 1/1/21-6/30/2022
Role: Principal Investigator
Percent of Effort: N/A
Description: This project aims to complete pilot-testing of a teleophthalmology implementation program across multiple primary care clinics within a single rural, multi-payer health system for sustaining increased diabetic eye screening rates.

Title: Implementation for Sustained Impact in Teleophthalmology (I-SITE)
Source: Wisconsin Partnership Program / Univ. of WI ICTR Evidence to Implementation Award
Total Award: $75,000
Award Dates: 3/1/20-8/30/21
Role: Principal Investigator
Percent of Effort: 5%
Description: This project seeks to develop training materials and facilitate expansion of clinical teleophthalmology services in partnership with the University of Wisconsin Fundus Photograph Reading Center.

Title: Establish a Vision and Eye Health Surveillance System for the Nation
Source: CDC U01 DP006444 (University of Chicago NORC)
Total Award: $2,550,000
Award Dates: 9/30/19-9/29/22
PI: David Rein PhD
Role: Consultant
Percent of Effort: N/A
Description: The purpose of this research is to enhance and validate a vision and eye health surveillance system to provide population estimates of vision loss, eye diseases, health disparities, and access to eye care.

Title: Telemedicine Grant, Fort HeathCare
Source: Wisconsin Public Service Commission
Total Award: $32,250
Award Dates: 5/01/20-4/30/21
PI: N/A
Role: Collaborator
Percent of Effort: N/A
Description: This funding supports the purchase of 2 non-mydriatic fundus cameras for teleophthalmology at Fort HealthCare’s Lake Mills and Whitewater clinics.

Past Awards 

Title: Macular Pigment as a Modifiable Glaucoma Risk Factor in Older Women
Source: Lions Eye Bank of Wisconsin Gift of Sight Discovery Fund
Total Award: $50,000
Award Dates: 1/2/19-12/31/19
Role: Principal Investigator
Percent of Effort: 5%
Description: This is a glaucoma ancillary study to CAREDS2 (R01 EY025292) that will provide the first longitudinal evidence as to whether low macular pigment levels are associated with an increased risk of glaucoma.

Title: Telemedicine Grant, Mile Bluff Medical Center
Source: Wisconsin Public Service Commission
Total Award: $55,600
Award Dates: 5/1/18-4/30/19
PI: N/A
Role: Collaborator
Percent of Effort: N/A
Description: This funding supports the purchase of 4 non-mydriatic fundus cameras for teleophthalmology at Mile Bluff Medical Center’s Outreach clinics.

Title: Macular Pigment and Glaucoma Incidence in the Carotenoids in Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (CAREDS2)
Source: American Glaucoma Society Mentoring for Advancement of Physician-Scientists (MAPS) Award
Total Award: $10,000
Award Dates: 1/1/18-12/31/18
Role: Principal Investigator
Percent of Effort: N/A
Description: This is a glaucoma ancillary study to CAREDS2 (R01 EY025292) that will provide the first longitudinal evidence as to whether low macular pigment levels are associated with an increased incidence of glaucoma.

Title: Macular pigment levels as a glaucoma risk factor in the Carotenoids in Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2
Source: American Glaucoma Society Mentoring for Advancement of Physician-Scientists (MAPS) Award
Total Award: $10,000
Award Dates: 9/1/16-8/31/17
Role: Principal Investigator
Percent of Effort: N/A
Description: This is a glaucoma ancillary study to CAREDS2 (R01 EY025292) that will provide the first longitudinal evidence as to whether low macular pigment levels are associated with an increased risk of glaucoma.

Title: Advancing Tele-ophthalmology for Diabetic Retinopathy in Rural Wisconsin
Source: Wisconsin Partnership Program New Investigator Program
Total Award: $100,000
Award Dates: 4/1/16-3/31/18
Role: Principal Investigator
Percent of Effort: 5%
Description: This study develops an implementation package to facilitate adoption of telemedicine for diabetic retinopathy in rural Wisconsin.

Title: Macular Pigment as a Modifiable Glaucoma Risk Factor in Older Women
Source: NIH/NCATS UL1 TR002373 Univ. of WI ICTR Basic & Clinical Translational Research Pilot Award
Total Award: $50,000
Award Dates: 4/1/16-3/31/18
Role: Principal Investigator
Percent of Effort: 5%
Description: This is a glaucoma ancillary study to CAREDS2 (R01 EY025292) that will provide the first longitudinal evidence as to whether low macular pigment levels are associated with an increased risk of glaucoma.

Title: Establish a Vision and Eye Health Surveillance System for the Nation
Source: CDC U01 DP006074 (University of Chicago NORC)
Total Award: $95,000 (subaward)
Award Dates: 9/20/15-9/29/19
PI: David Rein PhD
Role: Consultant
Percent of Effort: N/A
Description: The purpose of this research is to develop, test, and implement a vision and eye health surveillance system to provide population estimates of vision loss, eye diseases, health disparities, and access to eye care.

Title: Pilot study to assess the results of multifocal electroretinography (mfERG) and multifocal visual evoked potentials (mfVEP) in patients with glaucoma
Source: Frederick A. Davis Funds, University of Wisconsin Dept. of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
Total Award: $7,000
Award Dates: 10/1/14 – 10/1/18
Role: Principal Investigator
Percent of Effort: N/A
Description: This study evaluates the use of multifocal electroretinograms and a novel multifocal visual evoked potentials algorithm as objective tests of visual function among patients with glaucoma.   

Title: Aerie Glaucoma Trial – PG324-CS301 (clinical trial)
Source: Aerie Pharmaceuticals
Total Award: $21,125
Award Dates: 7/14/15-12/31/17
Role: Principal Investigator (Site)
Percent of Effort: N/A (recruited patients and conducted assessments per study protocol)
Description: A randomized, multicenter study assessing the safety and efficacy of PG324 Ophthalmic Solution compared to AR-13324 and Latanoprost Ophthalmic Solution in subjects with elevated intraocular pressure.

Title: Bausch and Lomb Glaucoma Trial – Protocol 770 (clinical trial)
Source: Bausch and Lomb Inc.
Total Award: $17,057
Award Dates: 5/9/13-6/1/15
Role: Principal Investigator (Site)
Percent of Effort: N/A (recruited patients and conducted assessments per study protocol)
Description: A randomized, multicenter study comparing the safety and efficacy of BOL-303259-X ophthalmic solution with timolol in subjects with open angle glaucoma or ocular hypertension.