Prof. Dr. Abramoff, The Robert C. Watzke Professor of Retina Research and University of Iowa

Autonomous AI in eye care: trust and ethics

Implementation of autonomous AI for diabetic retinopathy diagnosis has been expanding rapidly in the US and elsewhere since FDA approval in 2018. Taking an algorithm that makes a medical decision by itself required developing an ethical framework to ensure that all stakeholders in healthcare have trust and are supportive. This has led to FDA approval for safety and equity, inclusion in standards of care, and recently widespread reimbursement. The implications for US optometry were generally positive and will be discussed.


Dr. Michael Abramoff, MD, PhD, (FARVO) is the Robert C. Watzke, MD Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Iowa, with a joint appointment in the College of Engineering, a fellowship-trained retina specialist, computer scientist, and entrepreneur. He is an IEEE Fellow, and an ARVO Gold Fellow. In 1989-1990, he did a postdoc at the RIKEN neural networks research lab in Japan. As an expert in machine learning and image analysis, Dr. Abramoff was one of the original developers of a widely-used open-source image analysis app, ImageJ. His research has been continuously funded since 2004 by National Eye Institute, the Veterans Administration, the Beckman Foundation and other federal, state and philanthropic funding agencies in the U.S. and Europe.

Dr. Abramoff is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Digital Diagnostics, the Autonomous AI diagnostics company that was the first in any field of medicine to get FDA clearance for an autonomous AI. In primary care, the AI system can instantaneously diagnose diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema at the point of care. This device, IDX-DR, is now part of ADA’s Standard Diabetes Care and Dr. Abramoff has also developed an ethical foundation for autonomous AI that was used during the design, validation, and regulatory and payment pathways for autonomous AI. As the author of over 300 peer-reviewed publications in this field, he has been cited over 35,000 times, and is the inventor on 17 issued patents and many patent applications. Dr. Abramoff has mentored dozens of engineering graduate students, ophthalmology residents, and retina fellows. His passion is to use AI to improve the affordability, accessibility and quality of care.