James P. McCulley, M.D.

James P. McCulley, M.D.

  • The David Bruton, Jr. Chair in Ophthalmology
  • Ophthalmology
  • Cornea & External Disease
  • Refractive & Cataract Surgery


James McCulley, M.D., is Professor and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at UT Southwestern Medical Center. He specializes in corneal and external eye diseases, keratorefractive surgery (PRK/LASIK), and anterior segment surgery. He holds the David Bruton, Jr. Chair in Ophthalmology.

Dr. McCulley holds an undergraduate degree from Texas Christian University. He earned his medical degree at Washington University School of Medicine and completed an internship in internal medicine at the Harvard Medical Unit at Boston City Hospital. He performed his ophthalmology residency and corneal fellowship training at Massachusetts Eye and Ear (Harvard Medical School) and then worked two years at Bethesda Naval Hospital before taking an academic position at Stanford University School of Medicine.

Certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology, he joined the UT Southwestern faculty in 1980 and became the Ophthalmology Chair in 1981.

Dr. McCulley is member of multiple professional organizations and sits on the editorial boards of several peer-reviewed journals. Additionally, he has served on many committees and boards, including the UT Southwestern Health Systems Board of Directors, the Clinical Advisory Committee, and the Executive Committee of Clinical Chairs.

Outside of UT Southwestern, he has served as Chair of the National Eye Institute and as a member of several National Institutes of Health review committees and the Food and Drug Administration’s Ophthalmic Devices Panel of the Medical Devices Advisory Committee, among other local, state, and national board and advisory positions.

As an invited guest speaker or lecturer, Dr. McCulley has presented at more than 200 national and international professional conferences, and he has published more than 700 peer-reviewed journal papers, citable abstracts, books, and book chapters.

Awards and honors have been part of Dr. McCulley’s career since 1968, when Washington University awarded him the Alumni Award in Internal Medicine. In 2001, he received Texas Christian University’s Alumni Association Distinguished Alumnus Award, followed in 2006 by the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Department of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. In 2008, the Washington University Medical Center Alumni Association awarded Dr. McCulley its Distinguished Alumni Award, and in 2012 he received the Cornea Society’s Castroviejo Medal, which is internationally recognized as the highest honor bestowed upon a cornea specialist. In 2018, he was named a Super Doctor by Texas Monthly.

Meet Dr. McCulley

Chair of Ophthalmology

When James P. McCulley, M.D., became Professor and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at UT Southwestern Medical Center in September 1981, the department included physicians in three of the nine ophthalmic subspecialties.

Today, thanks to relentless clinical expansion and strong faculty recruitment over three decades, the department offers patients care in all areas of ophthalmology: corneal and external eye disease; cataract and refractive surgery; glaucoma; uveitis and ocular immunology; vitreoretinal and macular disease; ophthalmic plastic surgery; neuro-ophthalmology; pediatric ophthalmology; ophthalmic oncology; ophthalmic pathology; and vision care (glasses, contact lenses, and low-vision aids).

“We truly offer ‘one-stop,’ coordinated, comprehensive eye care covering all ophthalmic subspecialties, and we’re the only place in North Texas to do so,” Dr. McCulley says. 

"We’re making major advancements against diseases that once resulted in blindness. Not only can we stabilize many of these disorders, we can reverse them.”

Dr. McCulley is an internationally recognized specialist in the evaluation and treatment of corneal diseases. A Fort Worth native, he attributes his career trajectory, drive, and work ethic to his family. “My mother was a college professor, and my father was a businessman, and these professions influenced my decision to chair a department,” he says.

One of the most innovative areas in ophthalmology, he says, is corneal transplantation. The procedure, which used to replace the entire cornea, has been modified to preserve healthy, disease-free tissue. Known as lamellar surgery, the technique has many benefits for the patient.

“Lamellar surgery has given us a better understanding of preventing and treating corneal graft rejection, which increases the chances of success after surgery. Leaving more of the patient’s own healthy corneal tissue intact reduces the likelihood the transplant will be rejected,” he says.

His department’s close proximity to UT Southwestern’s Transplant Services Center is an added advantage for ophthalmologists, he notes: “We are fortunate to have this full-service eye bank, which is recognized as a world leader, right here on campus.”

Another important procedure that continues to evolve is LASIK surgery. As a member of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Ophthalmic Devices Panel of the Medical Devices Advisory Committee, Dr. McCulley was among a handful of physicians who worked with the FDA during the LASIK clinical trials approval process. He has been part of LASIK’s continual progression, from using a microkeratome (blade) to create the corneal flap, to bladeless, all-laser LASIK.

Despite its technological advances, LASIK remains a surgical procedure requiring the utmost skill. Dr. McCulley stresses that although more surgeons are performing LASIK, not all surgeries are done safely. He consistently reminds people to be aware of who is performing the procedure – the surgeon’s credentials and training, outcomes for patients, experience, and research. He has put together a list of the top 10 questions every LASIK surgeon should answer for his or her patients. 

“People need to know what to look for and what to be aware of when considering LASIK,” he says. “I want to be sure they have the best information available.”     

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Education & Training
  • Fellowship - Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (1973-1974), Cornea & External Disease
  • Fellowship - Retina Foundation (1973-1974), Cornea Research, Department of
  • Residency - Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (1970-1973), Ophthalmology
  • Research Fellowship - Retina Foundation (1969-1970), Cornea Research, Department of
  • Internship - Boston City Hospital (1968-1969), Internal Medicine
  • Medical School - Washington University School of Medicine (1964-1968)
Professional Associations & Affiliations
  • American Ophthalmological Society
  • American Medical Association
  • American College of Surgeons
  • American Academy of Ophthalmology
  • Alpha Omega Alpha
Honors & Awards
  • Distinguished Service Award (Texas Ophthalmological Association) 2016, Highest honor bestowed by the TOA; a peer-recognized award acknowledging the recipient's lifelong dedication to ophthalmology patients and to the profession.
  • Castle Connolly, America's Top Doctors (2001 onwards)
  • TCU Alumni Association 2001, Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Harvard Medical School (formerly Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary) 2006, Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Washington University Medical Center 2008, Alumni Achievement Award
  • Life Achievement Award, American Academy of Ophthalmology 2014
  • Texas Monthly Magazine 2017, Super Doctors
  • D Magazine 2017, Best Doctors in Dallas
Books & Publications
  • Tissue culture of endothelium and epithelium
  • Severe Infectious Disease
  • Corneal transplantation
  • Chronic Blepharitis
  • Acanthamoeba Keratitis

Clinical Focus

  • Cornea & External Disease
  • Refractive & Cataract Surgery
  • Cataracts

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Q&A by Dr. McCulley


Dr. McCulley has been named a Super Doctor by Texas Monthly for the past 15 years.

James P. McCulley, M.D.

Dr. McCulley, Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology, discusses the expertise of the Ophthalmology program. 

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