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“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.”

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