Iowa City, IA—Hansjoerg E.J.W. Kolder, MD, PhD, will be remembered as a beloved cataract surgeon, professor, and clinician whose natural curiosity led him to pursue a degree in ophthalmology after working extensively in physiology.
Dr. Kolder died Oct. 23 at his farm in eastern Iowa, following a stroke. He was 84.
A native of Austria, Dr. Kolder was drafted into the German army at age 16, and spent 2 years as a prisoner of war. He enrolled in the first post-war medical school class in Vienna and eventually earned his PhD in physiology, with an emphasis on sensory research.
After Dr. Kolder performed several pioneering studies in Europe with the electro-oculogram (EOG), which recorded eye movements, he joined the Emory University faculty and served as an associate professor in the 1960s. In 1968, Frederick C. Blodi, MD, recruited him to the University of Iowa's Department of Ophthalmology. While on staff as an associate professor, he completed a residency in ophthalmology, and for many years taught residents the fundamentals of cataract surgery.
"He became a very good [at] teaching cataract surgery to the residents, and he was the main cataract surgeon in our department for years until our department grew and we added more surgeons," recalled William E. Scott, MD, a professor emeritus who started the pediatric ophthalmology department at the university and worked many years with Dr. Kolder. "I think he liked clinical medicine."
In addition, Dr. Kolder pursued his research with the EOG to evaluate patients with visual system abnormalities, and he collaborated with Dr. Scott on a few papers investigating pediatric eye movement. In 1998, the electrodiagnostic laboratory at the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences was named in his honor.
But Dr. Kolder was not the type to sequester himself in his laboratory. He loved spending time with people, especially residents. On many Sunday evenings, he would hold dinners for residents at his home, where he would prepare wild game—including duck, turkey, pheasant, and deer—often supplied by Dr. Scott, who enjoys hunting.
For a brief time, Dr. Kolder served as interim chairman in 1985 after the illness and death of Charles D. Phelps, MD, before the appointment of Thomas A. Weingeist, MD, PhD (now retired). However, Dr. Scott said, Dr. Kolder preferred his life in the clinic and classroom, where he could work with patients and residents.
Dr. Kolder retired from clinical practice in 1995, and transferred his energies to his farm, where he raised Red Angus cows.
He is survived by a sister, Brigitte Kretz; three children, Veronika Kolder, Katrin Kolder, and Michael Kolder; and five grandchildren. The family suggests memorial contributions be made to eye disease research at the University of Iowa (
"[Dr. Kolder] was a very approachable person," Dr. Scott said. "He was soft spoken, extremely kind, and everyone loved him. He was an [endearing] man."