Chief of Ophthalmology, Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters Virginia Pediatric Eye Center
Dr. Eric Crouch developed a strong interest in medicine early in life. As a 7th grader at Norfolk Academy, one of his teachers asked his class to write a statement predicting what they would be doing in 10-15 years. At graduation, the teacher gave their answers back to them. “Everything I had written on that list was exactly what I ended up doing,” he says.
After graduating from the University of Richmond, Eric returned to Norfolk to earn his medical degree from Eastern Virginia Medical School. He was already familiar with the school, having previously participated in research in the Department of Pharmacology as an undergrad. Although he considered other specialties, he ultimately chose the same field of medicine and surgery as his father, Earl Crouch, Jr., MD. The elder Dr. Crouch is a well-respected ophthalmologist who helped establish the Department of Ophthalmology at EVMS and served as Chairman of Ophthalmology and Residency Program Director for more than 30 years. Together they practice at Virginia Pediatric Eye Center with Dr. Eric Hein and Dr. Stacy Martinson.
Dr. Crouch also credits Dr. Thomas Wilson at the Geisinger Medical Center in Pennsylvania, and his attendings at the prestigious Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where he completed a fellowship in pediatric ophthalmology and adult strabismus. He was one of the last fellows of Dr. Marshall Parks, who had also trained Dr. Earl Crouch, Jr. in fellowship.
In addition to maintaining a robust clinical and surgery practice, Dr. Crouch heads up the curriculum for the pediatric ophthalmology section for EVMS residents. He has mentored dozens of medical students and ophthalmology residents, and has proudly seen his trainees go on to the Mayo Clinic, Duke Medical Center, Boston Children’s, and Yale. He has been involved in more than 80 scientific publications and presentations, written 12 book chapters, and edited three textbooks. From his earliest days of practice, clinical research has been a significant focus of Dr. Crouch’s career. He has played a leadership role at both the local and national levels and has served as an investigator in various multidisciplinary studies at CHKD and EVMS. He has also been involved in more than 20 studies for the Pediatric Eye Disease Investigator Group (PEDIG), a collaborative network dedicated to facilitating multi-center clinical research in strabismus, amblyopia, and other eye disorders that affect children. This network, formed in 1997, is funded by the National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, and focuses on advancing the management of pediatric disease conditions. During the past decade, Dr. Crouch has served on PEDIG’s Executive Committee, Operations Committee, Steering Committees, and Writing Committees. He also served as Vice-Chair of the network for two years, with responsibilities to more than 150 active clinical sites throughout the US, UK, and Canada. He has reached the highest level ever achieved in the EVMS Department of Ophthalmology for serving as a clinical research administrator for an entire multi-center network involved in randomized clinical trials and epidemiologic studies. He has been active on various multidisciplinary research projects and clinical endeavors with the CHKD Departments of NICU, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Genetics, Endocrinology, and Craniofacial Surgery. He takes great satisfaction in being able to assist the departments of Plastic Surgery, Neurosurgery, and Craniofacial Surgery in complex craniofacial disorders and managing the associated ophthalmologic disease processes.
Dr. Crouch has a particular interest in the development of better treatments for amblyopia, strabismus, and visual rehabilitation. Current research is exploring newer binocular treatments beyond standard monocular treatments. “There’s ongoing research where we don’t necessarily completely patch the good eye,” Dr. Crouch explains, “but rather we’re creating a situation through special glasses and computer software to modify contrast fields, monocular cues, and impacting ocular fusion development. These newer mechanisms may provide better physiologic outcomes. We’re also investigating the use of specially designed video games that attempt to improve both eyes simultaneously. As the child improves, therapeutic compliance also improves.”
In addition, Dr. Crouch is excited about the role large-scale clinical registries are playing in data mining about conditions like strabismus, pediatric cataracts, and pediatric optic neuritis. “The hope from these registries is that the data we collect will allow us to identify different associations, or linkages between treatments and improve outcomes,” he says. “Large-scale registries create an opportunity to design better studies to address uncommon conditions. It’s a long term situation with five and ten year outcomes. As with any study, we try to retain as many patients longitudinally to ensure we have the most reliable data analysis possible.” These registries are important in multiple situations, particularly cases like pediatric optic neuritis, a relatively infrequent condition in children, because a single pediatric ophthalmologist may see only one or two patients in a year. Across the country, there might be hundreds of cases that could yield significant data. “That’s the power of a registry,” says Dr. Crouch, who is currently involved in several such studies.
Dr Crouch’s passion for research isn’t limited to pediatric ophthalmologic conditions. As PEDIG protocol chair for an ongoing Study of Adult Strabismus prospective study, he will continue to oversee data collection through the end of this year on three of the most common non-paretic strabismus conditions in adults: convergence insufficiency, divergence insufficiency, and small angle hypertropia.