Logo for University of Iowa Health Care This logo represents the University of Iowa Health Care

Michael D. Abramoff, MD, PhD

Pioneering scientist, physician, and entrepreneur on a mission to end blindness with artificial intelligence


Dr. Michael  D. Abramoff, MD, PhD, is an internationally renowned physician scientist at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics and the Iowa City VA Health Care System. He is an IEEE Fellow, and an ARVO Fellow. He is a fellowship-trained retina specialist, and the Robert C. Watzke, Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, with joint appointments in both Electrical and Computer Engineering and Biomedical Engineering. He is also a machine learning and image analysis expert, with a Master’s in Computer Science focused on Artificial Intelligence, and a PhD in image analysis – both Jan Koenderink and Max Viergever were advisors. Dr. Abramoff did a postdoc in Tokyo Japan between 1989-1990 at the RIKEN neural networks research lab. He was one of the original developers of ImageJ, a widely used open source image analysis app.  

Dr. Abramoff is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Digiatal Diagnostics (fka. IDx Technologies), the autonomous AI company that is the first company in any field of medicine to get FDA approval for autonomous AI, which is now part of ADA's Standard of Diabetes Care.

For the past 20 years, Dr. Abramoff's research has focused autonomous Artificial Intelligence (AI) - can be used to improve the lives of patients, focusing on autonomous AI based diagnostic and quantification algorithms for retinal disease, and the the interaction between neuropathy and vasculopathy  in diabetes complications. Dr. Abramoff ‘s research has been continuously funded since 2004 by the National Eye Institute, the Veterans Administration, the Beckman Foundation and other federal, state and philanthropic funding agencies in the U.S. and Europe. He has authored over 300 peer-reviewed publications that have been cited over 33,000 times (h-index 62). He is inventor on 16 issued patents and many patent applications. Dr. Abramoff has mentored dozens of ophthalmology residents, retina fellows, computer engineering graduate student. His passion is not only to improve health care for patients in the retina clinic, but to find ways to improve healthcare for all patients.


Discussing 3-dimensional organization of the retina




Selected Honors and Awards

  • Charles D. Phelps Memorial Award for Glaucoma Research, 2016
  • Young Investigator Award, Macula Society, 2013
  • President’s Innovation Award, American Telemedicine Association, 2011
  • PG Binkhorst Award, “Objective Measurement of Motion in the Orbit”, 2013
  • McKinsey Inc. for Best Business plan in the Netherlands, 2001
  • 3M-Jonkers Award, 2002
  • Peter Reichertz Prize for best young researcher, European Federation for Medical Informatics, 1990

Editorials on Abramoff's Work

Comments by Residents regarding Dr. Abramoff

Dr. Abramoff

  • "Excellent teacher."
  • "He makes a point to enforce with residents that teaching is his first priority and this shows in how he operates his clinic. He listens to the residents assessments and pushes them to generate their own clinical plan. He integrates evidence and experience in his teaching effortlessly. He is one of the most supportive faculty of the residents, encouraging them to become involved in research and takes time to mentor them along their career path."
  • "We are very lucky to have him as a faculty."
  • "Great working with Dr. Abramoff. I learned a lot from his guidance in clinic. He has a very good systematic approach to retina that I hope to be able to adopt. I look forward to working with him again next year."
  • "It is truly an honor to work with and learn from Dr. Abramoff. I have so enjoyed my time at the VA in the Retina Clinic with him. He provides excellent guidance but also pushes residents to develop our own assessments and plans. He has also been a fabulous instructor for me with lasers."
  • "He clearly is dedicated to furthering the field of ophthalmology through all aspects of medicine - research, teaching, and clinical care. I look forward to continue working with him."
  • "We're lucky to have him teaching residents and helping to care for our patients."
  • "Fun to work with and very knowledgeable."
Evolution of a physician-scientist

Datasets and Algorithms

Locations of where the Iowa Reference Algorithms are being usedImageJ

  • M.D. Abràmoff, P.J. Magelhaes, S.J. Ram, Image Processing with ImageJ. Biophotonics International, 11(7):36-42, 2004; over 7500 citations!


Retinal Image Analysis

  • ROC: Retina Online Challenge – Online competition for the best microaneurysm detection algorithm, with a standardized set of 100 de-identified color images and reference standard. (server problems have disabled some functionality. Datasets may be downloaded from links below.)
  • DRIVE: Digital Retinal Images for Vessel Extraction – Online comparison retinal vessel detection algorithms, with a standardized set of 40 de-identified fovea centered retinal color images and reference standard
  • RITE: Retinal Images vessel Tree Extraction – A database that enables comparative studies on segmentation or classification of arteries and veins on retinal images, which is established based on the public available DRIVE database (Digital Retinal Images for Vessel Extraction) (Download RITE datasets)
  • DERIVA: Digital Extraction from Retinal Images of Veins and Arteries – Automated method for identification and artery-venous classification of vessel trees in retinal vessel networks. Vinayak S. Joshi, Joseph M. Reinhardt, Mona K. Garvin, Michael D. Abramoff. PlosONE, Nov 2013
  • INSPIRE - Iowa Normative Set for Processing Images of the Retina - online set of 30 pairs of de-identified stereo color images of the optic nerve head, with reference standard, based on 3D OCT (INSPIRE DATASETS)
    • Associated with our article: Li Tang, Mona K. Garvin, Kyungmoo Lee, Wallace L. M. Alward, Young H. Kwon, Michael D. Abràmoff. Robust Multi-Scale Stereo Matching from Fundus Images with Radiometric Differences. IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence (Preprint available here)
  • Iowa Reference Algorithm – Analysis and segmentation of retinal and optic nerve head SD-OCT images is now freely available to researchers in the form of the Iowa Reference Algorithm that we developed.



  • Dr. AbramoffAbramoff, M. D., van Ginneken, B., Niemeijer, M. 7,474,775, "Automatic Detection of Red Lesions in Digital Color Fundus Photographs."
  • Abramoff, M. D., Kwon, Y. H. 7,712,898, "Methods and Systems for Optic Nerve Head Segmentation."
  • Abramoff, M. D., Quellec, G. U.S. Patent Application Number US 13/992,552, "Optimal, User-Friendly, Object Background Separation in Images."
  • Abramoff, M. D., Niemeijer, M., Xu, X., Sonka, M. U.S. Patent Application number US 13/355,386, "Automated determination of arteriovenous ratio in images of blood vessels."
  • Abràmoff, M., Tang, L. US Patent Application number 13/980,804, "Systems and Methods for Generating a Three-Dimensional Shape from Stereo Color Images."
  • Lee, S., Niemeijer, M., Reinhardt, J., Abramoff, M. D. US Patent number 8,194,936, "Optimal Registration of Multiple Deformed Images Using a Physical Model of the Imaging Distortion."
  • Abramoff, M. D., Soliz, P., Russell, S. R. US Patent number 8,340,437, "Methods and Systems for Determining Optimal Features for Classifying Patterns or Objects in Images."
  • Wu, X., Garvin, M., Abramoff, M., Sonka, M. US Patent number 8,358,819, "System and methods for image segmentation in N-dimensional space."
  • Abràmoff, M. US Patent number 8,616,702, "Hybrid Laser Ophthalmoscope."
  • Abràmoff, M., Tang, L., Wu, X. US Provisional Patent Application number 61/968,713, "Graph Search Using Non-Euclidean Deformed Graph."
  • Abramoff, M. D., DeHoog, E. US Patent number 9,155,465, "Snapshot spectral domain optical coherence tomographer."
  • Abramoff, M. D., Sonka, M. US Patent number 9,545,196, "Automated assessment of glaucoma loss from optical coherence tomography."
  • Abramoff, M.D., DeHoog E. US Patent number 9,782,065, "Parallel optical coherence tomography apparatuses, systems, and related methods."
  • Abramoff, M.D., Niemeijer, M., Xu, X., Sonka, M., Reinhardt, J.M. US Patent number 9,924,867, "Automated determination of arteriovenous ratio in images of blood vessels."