Biography

Jess Thomas Whitson, M.D., is a Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology at UT Southwestern Medical Center. He specializes in glaucoma, cataracts, and comprehensive ophthalmology. 

Dr. Whitson earned his medical degree at Johns Hopkins University. He completed a residency in ophthalmology at UT Southwestern and received advanced training in glaucoma treatment through a fellowship at Emory University. He also completed graduate studies in public health practice at Johns Hopkins, finance at Southern Methodist University, and entrepreneurial management in life sciences at Rice University. 

Certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology, Dr. Whitson joined the UT Southwestern faculty in 1993. 

In addition to his clinical work at UT Southwestern, Dr. Whitson serves as Director of the Glaucoma Fellowship and is a member of the Ophthalmology Clinical Competence Committee and the Program Evaluation Committee. 

He serves as a reviewer for several professional journals and has authored more than 90 publications. He has also served as an examiner for the American Board of Ophthalmology. 

Dr. Whitson is a member of numerous professional organizations, including the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Board of Ophthalmology, the American College of Surgeons, the American Eye Study Club, the American Glaucoma Society, the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, the Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology, the Dallas County Medical Society, the Dallas Academy of Ophthalmology, the Johns Hopkins Medical & Surgical Association, the North Texas Eye Research Institute, and the Texas Medical Association.

Dr. Whitson is a recipient of the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s Senior Achievement Award and the UT Southwestern Medical Center Department of Ophthalmology’s Distinguished Alumnus Award. He is listed in Woodward-White’s Best Doctors in America, Texas Monthly’s Super Doctors, and the Consumers’ Research Council of America’s Guide to America’s Top Ophthalmologists.

In 2018, he was named a Super Doctor by Texas Monthly.

Meet Dr. Whitson

Glaucoma Specialist

While many serious medical conditions announce themselves with telltale symptoms of discomfort and pain, others, like open-angle glaucoma, do not.

“We call glaucoma a ‘silent thief,’ because by the time a patient experiences peripheral vision loss, it’s too late; the damage is done,” says Jess T. Whitson, M.D., a Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

"Using less invasive laser and surgical techniques, as well as newer and better tolerated medications, we can tailor glaucoma treatment for our patients, based on their needs and risk profile."

Ocular hypertension, the increase in intraocular pressure on the optic nerve, is the culprit behind glaucoma, the world’s second-leading cause of blindness behind cataracts. Early detection with regular eye exams is important, says Dr. Whitson, who, as lead investigator in several clinical trials, has helped usher in improved treatments for the disease since he joined the Department of Ophthalmology in 1993.

“Since I’ve been in practice, ophthalmology has made tremendous strides in understanding the nature of glaucoma, including risk factors, monitoring, and surgical and nonsurgical treatments,” says Dr. Whitson. African Americans, for example, are more than twice as likely than non-Hispanic whites to develop the disease. Other risk factors include age (50 years and older; 40 years and older if African-American or Hispanic); a history of serious eye injury; use of steroidal medications; having diabetes; being near-sighted; and having abnormally high or low blood pressure.

Assessing a patient’s individual risk profile “helps us customize treatment options, which can include the use of pressure-reducing eye drops, laser trabeculoplasty and/or surgery,” says Dr. Whitson.

Tracking glaucoma’s progress during follow-up appointments with an ophthalmologist is crucial and further influences treatment options for patients. Tests and procedures that monitor vision loss and damage to the optic nerve include optical coherence tomography (OCT), confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscopy, and computerized perimetry are all available at UT Southwestern. 

“I want to make sure my glaucoma patients’ quality of life is not diminished by this chronic disease, an idea I try to instill in the ophthalmology residents and glaucoma fellows I teach. There’s no other place I’d rather be to accomplish this than UT Southwestern,” Dr. Whitson says.

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Education & Training
  • Fellowship - Emory University Hospital (1991-1992), Glaucoma
  • Residency - UT Southwestern Medical Center (1988-1991), Ophthalmology
  • Fellowship - UT Southwestern Medical Center (1987-1988), Ophthalmology
  • Internship - UT Southwestern Medical Center (1986-1987), Internal Medicine
  • Medical School - Johns Hopkins University (1982-1986)
Professional Associations & Affiliations
  • Fellow, American College of Surgeons
  • European Glaucoma Society
  • Diplomat, American Board of Ophthalmology
  • American Glaucoma Society
  • American Academy of Ophthalmology
Honors & Awards
  • Board of Directors, Dallas Academy of Ophthalmology, 2011-2014
  • Who’s Who 2011, Executives and Professionals
  • Consumers’ Research Council of America 2011, America’s Top Ophthalmologists
  • D Magazine 2013, Best Doctors in Dallas
  • Texas Monthly Magazine 2014, Super Doctors
Research
  • Hereditary features of glaucoma
  • Drugs to treat glaucoma
  • Acanthamoeba Keratitis and glaucoma

Clinical Focus

  • Glaucoma
  • Cataracts

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Q&A by Dr. Whitson