Supporting Vision Research

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Supporting Vision Research

As a neuroradiologist in Birmingham, Ala., Ronald A. Lepke, M.D., took pride in delivering excellent care to his patients. Thanks to a caring and compassionate specialist at Bascom Palmer, he was able to continue his practice until he passed away in 2019.

When Ron was unable to find a diagnosis for his own vision problem, he began to search for a solution,” said his former wife and advocate, Alicia R. Lepke. “He learned about the research being done by Carol L. Karp, M.D., the Richard K. Forster Chair in Ophthalmology, and began traveling to Bascom Palmer. She became our friend and the savior of Ron’s vision.”

While receiving treatment at Bascom Palmer, Lepke became deeply interested in Karp’s research and left a $1.5 million gift in his estate to create the Ronald and Alicia Lepke Endowed Professorship Fund for Corneal and Ocular Surface Diseases in support of her research.

“Ron was a researcher at heart and would spend whatever time was needed to find the solution to a question about his patients,” said Alicia. “He had a great appreciation for Dr. Karp, both as a physician and a researcher. Ron respected her right out of the gate and never lost faith in her abilities. I wish I could adequately express what Dr. Karp’s brilliance, kindness and friendship has meant to both of us. She is a gift to each of her patients.”

“Bascom Palmer Gave Me Back My Life”

Jules and Shirley Arkin feel a strong sense of connection with Bascom Palmer. More than 30 years ago, Jules Arkin was seen by retinal specialist J. Donald M. Gass, M.D., one of the Institute’s first five ophthalmologists, and more recently by Philip J. Rosenfeld, M.D., Ph.D. “I took part in Dr. Rosenfeld’s studies a decade ago,” said Jules, whose brother, Stanley, was chair of the Board of Governors of the Anne Bates Leach Eye Hospital. “While I don’t have much vision left, Dr. Rosenfeld has been able to stabilize my condition.”

His wife, Shirley Forrest Arkin, was preparing to judge a Miss USA pageant in 2000 when her vision began to blur, and she had sudden pain in her eyes. “I went to a local doctor who told me I would go blind, and there was nothing they could do,” she said. “I immediately went to Bascom Palmer and knew they would know how to treat my condition.” Terrence P. O’Brien, M.D., the Charlotte Breyer Rodgers Chair in Ophthalmology, performed three corneal transplants using tissues provided by the Florida Lions Eye Bank. “I’ve gone from being nearly blind to having 20/20 vision again,” said Shirley. “Bascom Palmer gave me back my life.”

A former “Miss Philadelphia,” Shirley was an opera singer and the lead showgirl at the Latin Quarter in the late 1950s, where she performed with comedian Milton Berle and singers Frank Sinatra and Sophie Tucker. Now, the 82-year-old is still performing on the senior circuit and organizing shows to benefit worthy organizations. The Arkins recently made a $110,000 gift to support research on corneal and external diseases. “I tell all my friends not to give up hope,” said Shirley. “Bascom Palmer may have the answer for you.”

Gordon Miller, M.D., Honors Bascom Palmer’s Founder

In February 1960, Gordon Miller was a senior at Washington University School of Medicine and wanted to avoid the winter in St. Louis. He came to Miami for his rotation in ophthalmology. His plans to follow a career in internal medicine were shelved in favor of a career in ophthalmology because of Bascom Palmer’s founder – Dr. Edward W.D. Norton.

At that time, Norton had recently arrived in Miami to become “Chief” of the division of ophthalmology at the University of Miami School of Medicine. With big plans for the future, he and his colleague, Victor C. Curtin, M.D., were laying the groundwork for an ophthalmology department at the university. Just two years later, their dream was realized when the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute opened its doors, named in honor of Bascom H. Palmer, M.D., one of Miami’s first ophthalmologists.

After earning his medical degree, Miller returned to Miami for his residency because of the opportunity to learn from Norton and Curtin, two of the brightest minds in ophthalmology. “Whenever there was a question regarding a diagnosis or a problem with a patient, Dr. Norton was always available to answer questions and to teach, teach, teach,” said Miller. “He was also tireless in his efforts to recruit a great faculty and serve his fellow man.”

After being called to serve in the U.S. Army, Miller returned to Bascom Palmer and in 1966 became chief resident under “the Chief.” “I like to think that I was his favorite resident,” said Miller. “Dr. Norton was like a guiding light for me.”

Miller launched a long and successful career as an ophthalmologist in private practice in Miami Beach, specializing in oculoplastics. Following Norton’s personal example of service, Miller taught at the Miami Veteran’s Administration Hospital for 15 years as a voluntary faculty member. “I have always been interested in medical education,” he said. Miller also supports Bascom Palmer’s Mary and Edward Norton Library of Ophthalmology – one of the most comprehensive ophthalmic libraries in the world.

In honor of Norton, Miller provided a bequest to create the Gordon R. Miller Endowed Jr. Chair in Ophthalmology. “This gift is a tribute to the Chief and this great Institution,” he said.

Al Miami

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming eye care around the world. This powerful technology which will make it easier to diagnose a wide range of eye diseases and disorders, was discussed at a medical forum hosted by Northern Trust in Miami.

Ranya Habash, M.D., presented her AI research at Bascom Palmer and how it is leading to exciting new solutions for enhancing vision. She was joined by additional Bascom Palmer and University of Miami experts, each sharing their expertise on AI as it plays an increasingly important role in managing a number of eye diseases and overall health.

For Your Eyes Only Naples

Ladies gathered in Naples for the annual “For Your Eyes Only” luncheon to engage with some of Bascom Palmer’s women in ophthalmology. Guests learned about Bascom Palmer’s latest advancements in gene therapy for inherited retinal dis-eases, treatments for age-related macular degeneration, and artificial intelligence in vision care. Bascom Palmer extends its thanks to Key Private Bank for their sponsorship of the event.

For Your Eyes Only Palm Beach

Jorge Fortun, M.D., retina specialist and medical director of Bascom Palmer at Palm Beach Gardens, was the featured speaker at the third annual “For Your Eyes Only” luncheon held in Palm Beach. Fortun shared important tips on what you can do to keep your eyes healthy as well as sharing the latest treatments for retinal diseases. Event proceeds will support research at Bascom Palmer’s Lois Pope Center for Retinal and Macular Degeneration Research, which will apply laboratory research to clinical care, providing novel therapies for retinal disease, increasing the number of clinical trials, and bringing endless possibilities to prevent vision loss.

Palm Beach Medical Forum

First held in 1988, the Palm Beach Medical Forum is a popular Palm Beach tradition where Bascom Palmer’s physicians share the most recent vision research and medical highlights. “Bascom Palmer has been at the forefront of gene therapy for inherited retinal diseases, a viable option to restore sight, for more than a decade,“ said neuro-ophthalmologist Byron Lam, M.D., as he began the 2019 forum. He was joined by Audina Berrocal, M.D., a pediatric retinal surgeon, who performs gene therapy surgeries on children. She shared numerous stories of her young patients whose sight has been restored with these life-changing breakthroughs. Philip J. Rosenfeld, M.D., Ph.D., a pioneer in the use of drugs to prevent blindness in neovascular (wet) age-related macular degeneration, who is credited for saving vision in millions around the world, shared his research and latest findings on the dry form of the disease.

Eye on the World

To honor Bascom Palmer’s global impact, the Institute was thrilled to host its fourth annual Evening of Vision Gala, “Eye on the World.” Since opening its doors in 1962, members of Bascom Palmer’s faculty have been sharing clinical and research expertise with ophthalmologists throughout the world. As physicians graduate from its global fellowship and residency pro-grams, the web of ophthalmologists trained at Bascom Palmer strengthens and grows, adding to the network of ophthalmologists with whom we work. This translates to better care for our patients at home or abroad.

The gala was a great success thanks to the generous support of the Naples community. The highlight of the evening was the announcement that the E.D.S. Family Pediatric Program became the first million-dollar pillar program named at Bascom Palmer Naples.

Thank you, Naples. for supporting the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. While Bascom Palmer is proud to tackle the world’s most challenging eye diseases, we are proud to call Naples our home.The next event in Naples will be the 20/20 Vision Luncheon, featuring Isaac Lidsky as the guest

Victory in Sight

Each year, the highly anticipated Evening of Vision Gala brings together elegance, excitement and support by the Palm Beach community in celebration of Bascom Palmer. “Victory in Sight,” the 38th annual gala, paid tribute to the Institute’s many achievements since its founding, as well as its exciting future as the premier eye care center in the nation. Guests also celebrated the Lois Pope Center for Retinal & Macular Degeneration Research recently opened on Bascom Palmer’s Palm Beach Gardens campus, ushering in a new era of collaborative, cutting-edge research on retinal diseases. The ribbon-cutting of the new center was held on January 15, 2020.

Lois Pope, who donated $12 million for the Research Center at the 2018 Evening of Vision Gala, chaired the 2019 event. Honorary Chairs were James Borynack and Adolfo Zaralegui. Bascom Palmer extends its gratitude to Grand Gala Patrons Lois Pope, Frank Chopin and Kathleen Ford, Christy and Earl Powell, and the Caroline and Alitza Weiss Family Foundation. Special thanks to Gala Patrons Raysa and Alfonso Fanjul, Findlay Galleries Inc., Michelle and Howard Kessler, McNulty Charitable Foundation, Pietrafesa family, Ari Rifkin, Irvin Saltzman Family Foundation, and Suzy and Jack Welch.The 2020 gala will be held February 28, at The Breakers Palm Beach.

Welcome New Faculty: Swarup Swaminathan

SWARUP S. SWAMINATHAN, M.D., a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Medical School’s Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program, joins the faculty as an assistant professor of clinical ophthalmology. Following the completion of his residency in ophthalmology at Bascom Palmer, he completed a fellowship in glaucoma at the Duke Eye Center. The recipient of the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Medical Research Fellowship, and Heed Ophthalmic Foundation Fellowship, Swaminathan has a keen interest in imaging research in glaucoma in order to assist ophthalmologists in improving their ability to diagnose glaucoma and identify patients at high risk for vision loss. Clinically, he is eager to work with patients to identify optimal treatment options, including minimally invasive glaucoma surgery. He is available for consultation regarding glaucoma and cataract.