Luxme Hariharan, MD, MPH
Dr. Luxme Hariharan is a pediatric ophthalmologist and global health expert within the Division of Ophthalmology at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. As an accomplished global researcher and child health advocate, Hariharan has a passion for international health that is deeply rooted in her own background. Born in Hyderabad, India, she grew up in Nairobi, Kenya; Iowa City, Iowa; and eventually, Madison, Wisconsin. As part of the University of Wisconsin’s competitive medical scholar program, she majored in Spanish & Caribbean studies and biology, and during her senior year, she studied abroad in the Dominican Republic and Haiti to research childhood malnutrition.
“My grandmother often told me stories of growing up in poor, rural Indian villages, because her father was a government doctor who believed that ‘from those to whom much is given, much is to be expected,’” she says. Her grandmother’s words have become the mantra of her career.
“I will work to make sure that every child, wherever they may be in the world, has an opportunity to develop their full visual potential.”
Her life and career passion is to create and scale effective programs & policies to prevent, diagnose, and to clinically & surgically treat childhood vision disorders both locally and abroad. Specifically, she has experience in policy, advocacy, and governance, working with Ministries of health on the implementation of childhood blindness prevention programs in El Salvador, Argentina, Niger, the Dominican Republic, India, Guatemala, and Puerto Rico. She most recently worked in Mexico, India, and South Africa on blindness prevention programs, as well in Geneva, Switzerland with the World Health Organization. She has vast experience working across disciplines including private sector, academics, hospitals, Non-profits the United Nations, and Ministries of Health to create systems solutions to eliminate childhood blindness.
She completed a Pediatric Ophthalmology fellowship at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, FL, and an additional fellowship in Pediatric Cornea, Cataract and Glaucoma, and International Health at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA). Her Ophthalmology residency was completed at the University of Pennsylvania Scheie Eye Institute in Philadelphia, PA and she earned her preliminary year in Pediatrics at SUNY Downstate in Brooklyn, NY. She also holds a Masters of Public Health degree emphasizing global and child health policy from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Dr. Hariharan is board certified in ophthalmology and her clinical interests include strabismus (eye muscle misalignment), Amblyopia (lazy eye), and other comprehensive pediatric visual disorders. . She is a member and serves on several committees within the American Academy of Ophthalmology, The American Academy of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus and serves on the Board of Directors of Combat Blindness International. Her work has been published in peer-reviewed journals, she has contributed textbook chapters and participated in global health initiatives with the United Nation’s, The World Health Organization, and other international nonprofit organizations.
Dr. Hariharan is employed by Nicklaus Children’s Pediatric Specialists (NCPS), the multispecialty group practice of Nicklaus Children’s Health System. She is fluent in English, Spanish, and Tamil and conversant in French and Hindi.
She was recently awarded the University of Wisconsin Alumni Foundation “Forward under 40 Award” and was named a 2014 and 2015 White House Fellow National Finalist for her leadership and public service. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, hiking, yoga, boxing, salsa dancing, sailing, and spending quality time with her family and friends.
The Division of Ophthalmology at Nicklaus Children's Hospital offers a full range of ophthalmic clinical and surgical services for children and young adults to the age of 21 years including but not limited to Strabismus (eye misalignment), Amblyopic (lazy eye), Nasolacrimal duct obstruction and Refractive error corrections (glasses). For more information please see the Ophthalmology website.
Question & Answers with Dr. Luxme Hariharan:
What led to your interest in pediatric ophthalmology?
I truly love the opportunity to help change the trajectory of a child’s life by helping to maximize
their vision. I remember one child in particular who was held back a grade because teachers thought he was not interested in school. It turned out that he just could not see well. Once he got the correct glasses prescription he was the most lively and participatory child in the class, and his grades drastically improved. I saw the direct impact vision can have on a child’s overall growth and development. In fact 80% of learning is visual! I was also excited to learn the intricate surgeries involved to treat pediatric ophthalmic conditions in combination with clinical care.
What aspects of your work do you find the most challenging?
When we are not able to offer a permanent treatment or cure for certain disorders, and despite our best efforts, a child may eventually go blind. This is very challenging to witness in a young child. According to the World Health Organization, every five seconds a child somewhere in the world goes blind. Over a third of these children never graduate from high school, and half will grow up to become part of the permanently unemployed. The burden that childhood blindness places on society extends far beyond vision impairment alone and has significant social and economic impacts on families, communities, and countries worldwide.
What can we do to help address this problem, beyond making sure every child has regular vision screening?
It’s important for everyone to have an idea of the types of avoidable and treatable causes of childhood blindness. 40-60 percent of childhood blindness is avoidable. A child’s visual system fully develops by the time he or she is 9 or 10 years old, and up until that time it is possible to improve vision via treatments such as glasses, patching, and possible surgery to maximize visual potential. After age 10, however, whatever visual acuity a child has is not likely to change. Therefore, early detection of ophthalmic conditions in children is vital in preventing them from developing further visual impairment and blindness.
To learn more or to donate to childhood blindness prevention programs, Hariharan welcomes your questions at Luxme.Hariharan@nicklaushealth.org
Websites About Dr. Hariharan & her work: