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Focus Stories

Florida Retina Institute 2019

by Laura Breen Galante

Featured Photo from Florida Retina Institute 2019

Florida Retina Institute in Lake Mary specializes in retina problems, treating patients with detached retinas, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy.

“We work on the retina, at the back of the eye, which is like the film in your camera,” explains Dr. Thomas Barnard, who joined Florida Retina Institute in 1998. Raised in DeLand, Dr. Barnard has ophthalmology in his genes. “My great-grandfather, grandfather, father, and my uncle are all optometrists. I sort of had a genetic predisposition to take care of eyes. This is what I wanted to do from a very young age on. It’s what I was meant to do.”

Following medical school and additional specialty training to treat and operate on the retina, Dr. Barnard returned to Central Florida and became part of Florida Retina Institute, which has 19 offices across Central Florida, North Florida, and Southeast Georgia. The Lake Mary office is a busy hub.

“We really help people,” Dr. Barnard says. “When I started 20 years ago, if someone got wet macular degeneration, they were pretty much destined to lose their central vision in that eye. That  was that.” 

Dr. Barnard says that since he’s been in practice, the field has made great strides. He gives credit to those who have pioneered medical options to save vision, from injections to lasers to surgical corrections.

“It’s really amazing what we’re able to do for patients now,” says Dr. Barnard. “We can keep people driving and reading and being independent. We’re able to save their vision.”

Dr. Elias Mavrofrides agrees, recalling his time as a student at the University of Florida medical school when he gave a presentation to the ophthalmology department.

“It was about this eye condition, a retina problem, and there were only theories and ideas about how to treat it,” Dr. Mavrofrides recalls, but less than 10 years later, those treatments are a reality. “As the technology gets better, we can do more for patients, so there are more patients to help.”

Dr. Mavrofrides grew up in Orlando and knew he wanted to return to the area following his schooling and fellowship. He joined Florida Retina Institute in 2004.

“We are the largest, best established retina practice in this area now,” he says. “We’re growing to serve Lake Mary, and we enjoy being part of the community.”

Dr. Matthew Cunningham joined the practice six years ago.

“I had known about the excellent reputation of Florida Retina Institute from my mentors and others in the area,” Dr. Cunningham says.

As a partner in the group and a Lake Mary resident, Dr. Cunningham enjoys the relationships that he has made with patients over the years.

“It’s really fulfilling to be in a situation where I can see my patients in the office and out in the community,” he says. “That’s one thing about living in Lake Mary and taking care of patients in Lake Mary that I’ve come to treasure.”

Dr. Jaya Kumar joined Florida Retina Institute a year ago. After completing her residency at Duke and a fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic, she moved to Central Florida, where her husband grew up. Dr. Kumar’s parents were both primary-care physicians, and she admired their professions.

“I really enjoyed studying science and wanted to pursue a career in which I could make a difference,” she says. “I was especially interested in continuity of care with patients, so I could see them regularly and get to know them. Florida Retina is an exceptional group of doctors that you won’t find anywhere else in the country, really. These are some of the best-trained, family-oriented, humble, and hardworking physicians. I’m so fortunate to be welcomed into the Florida Retina family and Lake Mary community. It’s been incredible.”

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