Conduct an Internet search for references to Eugene de Juan, MD, and it will produce millions of results linking to his world-renowned son and retina specialist, Eugene de Juan Jr., MD. However, the junior Dr. de Juan wants the world to know and remember the great work of his general ophthalmologist father, who practiced with grace and compassion for more than 40 years in Mobile, AL.
To ensure that legacy, Dr. de Juan Jr. and his family have donated $2.5 million to the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine to establish a professorship in his late father's name.
Despite all the mentors over the years, the person who most inspired him was his father, who died of cancer in 2001 at age 69.
"There was always a tremendous sense of humanity and a tremendous sense of responsibility," Dr. de Juan Jr. said of his father's approach to his practice. "I saw patients whom he had been treating for 30 years; he had treated them as children and now he was treating their children. In our world of LASIK-walk into the mall and get your eye fixed-you might not even see the doctor before the surgery and may not see him or her afterward. But there was something that was very different about the way that I saw ophthalmology practiced.
"That always was something that was extremely important to me in the teaching of ophthalmology," he said. "It's really not only about the patient, but the patient's life, and the quality of the patient's life. And you needed to be the advocate, you needed to be the counselor, you needed to be the listener who shared that part of the patient's life."
As important as research, development, and administration are to ophthalmology, they are secondary to a physician's primary mission, according to Dr. de Juan Jr.
"What you really have to do is understand that you're treating a fellow human being and do the best you possibly can, and that of course includes knowledge, but just as often it's having a sense of compassion and responsibility," he said. "That's what he had and that's why our family was very interested in making this chair possible, along with Johns Hopkins, so that the emphasis in this teaching to be a great ophthalmologist involves all of those things."
Although Dr. de Juan's father never attended or taught at the Wilmer Eye Institute, he had many close ties to the institution through his work in Mobile. He also encouraged his son to study at the Wilmer Eye Institute and to pursue a retina specialty. The younger Dr. de Juan has gone on to make many important research discoveries, holding patents on 40 medical devices and founding several companies focused on treating blinding retinal disorders.
Commitment to teaching
Dr. de Juan Jr. is pleased that his former colleague has been selected for the chair-one of more than 20 now offered at the Wilmer Eye Institute. Dr. Dunn embodies many of the qualities his father valued, he said.