Doug Matsunaga

Medical student Doug Matsunaga works at the USC Eye Institute

For many medical students, four years of study go by in a blur of lectures, labs and clinical care. But at Keck School of Medicine of USC, students like Doug Matsunaga have a whole year or more to pursue their dreams of scientific discovery in the Dean’s Research Scholars Program.

Matsunaga is working in the lab of Dean Carmen A. Puliafito, MD, MBA, and Amir H. Kashani, MD, PhD, at the USC Eye Institute.

He is studying the clinical application of optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA), a cutting-edge imaging technique that enables physicians to non-invasively observe retinal vasculature.

“Working on OCTA with Dean Puliafito — one of the founders of optical coherence tomography — has been a rare and rewarding privilege,” said Matsunaga. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to be immersed in both the clinical applications of retinal imaging technology, as well as the academic side of developing medical technology.”

Born in Long Beach, Matsunaga grew up in West LA and attended Santa Monica High School.

Matsunaga studied molecular and cell biology with a focus on infectious disease at UC Berkeley. He chose the Keck School because of its exceptional clinical opportunities, including work at Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center.

Matsunaga sees ophthalmology as the best fit for his passion and skills. “The list of things that attracted me to ophthalmology was long, and ranged from its mix of medicine and surgery to its ability to offer patients remarkable improvements to an essential part of their quality of life,” he said. “But, most of all, I chose ophthalmology because it is a field of medicine in which you build long-term relationships with patients.”

by Sharon Brock