Proudly positioned on the cutting edge of ophthalmic technology, Ophthalmic Diagnostic Services has provided advanced ophthalmic diagnostics to residents, fellows and affiliated practices since the early 70’s. In the words of Denice Barsness, recently retired Supervisor and Chief Imager of the ODS , “We have kept pace with much larger academic institutions such as Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, John Moran Eye Center, Casey Eye Institute, and Johns Hopkins University to name a few, and although these larger institutions named may have larger facilities, more staff, and duplicate diagnostic instruments, they have never had more advanced instruments or better trained staff.”

The CPMC Department of Ophthalmology’s “Diagnostic Services” began as a two room, two instrument photography service in approximately 1971. Mary Federico was the clinical photographer providing color fundus and angiography using a film-based Zeiss FF3 camera under the direction of neuro-ophthalmologist, Dr. Nancy Newman.

Michael Coppinger

Michael Coppinger joined Federico in 1975, (developing film in the converted nurses shower room!) after serving an apprenticeship at the John Vickers School of Photography in London. Federico trained Coppinger in retinal photography and after she left the service in the late 70’s, he began an annual Saturday photography session for bay area imagers where doctors and photographers presented cases and discussed techniques. This program was an outgrowth of the monthly fluorescein conference held on Saturday mornings, alternating between Pacific Medical Center and Letterman Hospital in the Presidio. Denice Barsness was one of his first students in 1980.

After leaving the department in 1983 to move east to Vermont, Coppinger created a business teaching Ophthalmic Photography, JMC EYE PHOTO, recognized nationally as the premier ophthalmic photography training company, credited with the longest running contiguous source of ophthalmic education in the US. Barsness, who credits Coppinger as a life-long mentor, joined JMC Eye Photo in 1987 and together they continue to offer in-office ophthalmic education programs.

Denice Barsness

Denice Barsness joined the CPMC Department of Ophthalmology in 1991 bringing over a decade of experience with all modalities of ophthalmic imaging, including ophthalmic echography. In 1979 she joined the elite Ophthalmic Photographers’ Society, an international network of experts whom she credits with providing her unparalleled access to the top ophthalmic imagers in the USA as well as continuous education in new imaging techniques. Barsness served as the first female president of the OPS and is currently a fellow. She was honored with the prestigious “Outstanding Contributions to Ophthalmic Photography” award in 2019 at the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the OPS.

Barsness recalls the period of 1987-1994 as an exciting period for the diagnostic services. A
series of photographers and technicians contributed to the growth of the service through
continuing staff education coupled with the rapid evolution of ophthalmic technology. The interactions between Barsness and the OPS, AAO and other professional organizations also gave the department crucial advantages due to access and early adoption of emerging technologies.

At the time, the clinic was running private practices parallel to the residency training program and demands on the diagnostic services were often stretched quite thin. In addition, Eye Professional Services, as it was known at that time was also providing diagnostic support to
community ophthalmologists.

In the absence of computers many hours were spent developing angiograms, processing color slides, and preparing Grand Rounds presentations for the Residents, in addition to supporting the very busy clinics. From the period of 1992-1994, Barsness also served as the departmental clinical manager, further stretching the staff of the EPS. In keeping with the educational mission of the department, Barsness provided the first technician centric series of educational programs for the ophthalmic community in 1993, growing to two meetings per year over a 30-year period. These were sponsored by the ODS and produced primarily by Barsness, with supportive services by the local ophthalmic physician community and ODS staff.

In the fall of 1995 CPMC made the decision to significantly re-organize the department. The faculty physicians were released to create private practices; the residency program remained at 2340 Clay Street and the diagnostic division was moved across the street to 2100 Webster Street.

The mid 90’s was also the dawn of the digital age. The first PC was obtained in 1996 and by 1999 a Windows NT server had been acquired to support the implementation of a Digital Data Network linking multiple modalities of ophthalmic instruments. Barsness collaborated carefully with early innovators in digital ophthalmic imaging to ensure that this transition would be realized. The goal of having a seamless digital network commenced with the installation of the Windows NT server and the slow replacement of legacy instruments to fully digitized technology.

Many new instruments were acquired during the 2000’s. reflecting the rapidly changing world of digital ophthalmic imaging and biometrics. A series of grants, gifts from the Lions Eye Foundation, and CPMC Foundation, along with Sutter Capital Budget approvals, made this a reality over the next ten years. Barsness installed one of the first Ophthalmology PACS systems in the US in 2003, placing the department ahead of the curve on having an integrated Digital Data Network.

In 2005 under the direction of Department Chair, Susan Day, MD, Eye Professional Services was renamed the Ophthalmic Diagnostic Center to more accurately reflect the work being done.
Marina Soboleva joined the team in 2004. As an ophthalmologist trained in Russia, she significantly enhanced the Center’s capabilities to provide interpretive diagnostics. Her input led the way to obtaining many crucial new instruments. Noted pathologist William H. Spencer, MD once remarked that Soboleva was nearly as well versed in ophthalmic pathology as he was, and today, Soboleva continues to serve as the Chief Technologist.

In 2017 the Ophthalmology Department moved from the California Pacific Medical Center facilities to the new Pacific Vision Eye Institute building at 711 Van Ness and the Diagnostic Center was renamed “Diagnostic Services.” Hard decisions were made, regarding which instrumentation to retain and which to sell. Barsness recalls that “it was exciting to be in a new facility with modern flooring (vinyl not carpeting), particularly in the angiography room! For the first time electrical outlets and network connectivity would be mapped out in a thoughtful manner to create a sophisticated ophthalmic Digital Data Network.

Barsness served as an interim Clinic Manager for the Department of Ophthalmology as well as the Supervisor of Diagnostic Services, retiring in July of 2022 after 31 years of distinguished service. The structure of Diagnostic Services changed at this time, with the clinical manager, Monica Garcia assuming supervisory duties over the diagnostic services. Sean Grout, a skilled photographer from North Carolina was recruited by Barsness to support Soboleva as well as providing continuing education to Hui Lin who acts as a supportive ophthalmic assistant to the ODS.