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Former Chair of Ophthalmology
1958 - 2007
EYES ON THE PRIZE
In 1958, I was completing my training in ophthalmology at the Mayo Clinic and pondering my next steps. I wanted to return home to DC and really wanted to work at Episcopal Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital, but had heard that their medical staff was extremely selective about granting privileges. Nevertheless, I submitted an application and lo and behold, it was approved almost immediately. Then I found out that Episcopal was merging with Garfield and Emergency to form MedStar Washington Hospital Center which would have many more beds- and they needed more doctors to staff the expanded programs.
We moved to the Hospital Center on June 14, 1958, where the new eye unit was cleverly housed on 2C ("to see")!
Very early on, I had a glimpse into what my future with MedStar Washington Hospital Center would be like. In 1959, I attended the Gold-Headed Cane Awards ceremony, a tradition that the new hospital inherited from its three predecessors and continues to this day. The award recognizes outstanding physicians for lifetime achievements in their field, and that year we honored four living legends: John Lyons, previously head surgeon at Emergency, was part of the team that operated on President Eisenhower in 1956; Dan Moffett, an ear, nose and throat specialist from Episcopal, treated Spencer Tracey and Katherine Hepburn when they were in town; Garfield's E. Clarence Rice was a pioneer in the treatment of diabetes with insulin; and John Burke, a nationally known ophthalmologist from Episcopal, had served as President of the prestigious American Ophthalmological Society.
Not only was I in the same room with these revered elder statesmen of the nation's medical community, but we were now all affiliated with the same hospital. Right then and there, I realized that MedStar Washington Hospital Center was, indeed, someplace special.
And I was right. Over the years, our department has had some truly prominent figures in ophthalmology. Just to name a few, Dr. John Harry King, a pioneer in corneal transplants, started the first local eye bank in the old gate house on the hospital's grounds and then went on to found the International Eye Foundation in 1961. Dr. Frank Costenbader founded the subspecialty of pediatric ophthalmology here. Patients with the most difficult strabismus ("cross-eye") problems were referred to him and his protégé, Dr. Marshall Parks, from all over the nation. And Lorenz Zimmerman, our consulting pathologist at the time, is renowned as the founder of ophthalmic pathology.
The Eye Center and the hospital have successfully built upon this solid foundation of accomplishments, and continue to flourish in the 21st century. I'm proud to have been part of it!