Wills Eye Hospital’s “powerhouse” William Tasman, MD, passed away March 28, 2017, at the age of 87. In the same short period, the retinal world had another sad passing of Eliot L. Berson, MD, on March 19, 2017 at the age of 79.
Dr. TasmanWills Eye Hospital’s “powerhouse” William Tasman, MD, passed away March 28, 2017, at the age of 87.
Dr. Tasman was ophthalmologist-in-chief at Wills Eye Hospital from 1985-2007. During his time there, he trained 161 residents and 199 retinal fellows.
Leading Wills Eye was an example of Dr. Tasman coming full circle, as he completed his residency and was chief resident there in the 1960s. He completed his retinal fellowship at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital, Boston.
Dr. Tasman was the founder of Mid-Atlantic Retina in 1974 and was a past president of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Ophthalmological Society, and the Retina Society.
His last published article was in the Ophthalmology October 2016 issue titled, “Historical perspectives on the management of macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and retinal detachment.”
When Dr. Tasman chose to step down from his position at Wills Eye in 2007, he made it clear he was not retiring.
In an interview with Ophthalmology Times shortly before leaving the hospital, he said, “I have every intention of remaining, and I plan to continue seeing patients and practicing.”
According to Peter J. McDonnell, MD, chief medical editor of Ophthalmology Times and director of the Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, it was the leadership of Dr. Tasman that “a great institution became even stronger.”
Reflecting on Dr. Tasman stepping down from Wills Eye, Dr. McDonnell dedicated a 2007 editorial to the “passing of the baton” at Wills Eye:
“Dr. Tasman made it look easy. Search PubMed under his name and you'll find that he's authored a couple hundred important papers, improving our understanding and treatment of retinopathy of prematurity (and other retinal diseases). He's past president of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and a bunch of other prestigious organizations, and 'Googling' his name will make obvious his major presence regionally, nationally, and internationally.”
When asked what advice he would offer ophthalmology residents and fellows during that time, Dr. Tasman said, “I would tell them that they want to be honest with their patients and do their best to provide honest care, but I also would tell them to pay attention to their families and don’t get so caught up in the profession that they don’t have time, for example, to be home for dinner and go to the soccer or football games. In the final analysis, when it’s all said and done, it’s not going to matter how many cataracts you did. It’s going to matter how your family turned out.”
Dr. Tasman was married to his wife for more than 50 years, with three adult children and five grandchildren.
Wills Eye paid tribute to the contributions of Dr. Tasman by creating the William Tasman Endowed Chair in Ophthalmology, which was first held by his successor at Wills Eye, Julia Haller, MD, who is also an Editorial Advisory Board Member for Ophthalmology Times.
Ophthalmic community remembers Dr. Eliot Berson
Dr. BersonIn the same short period, the retinal world had another sad passing of Eliot L. Berson, MD, on March 19, 2017 at the age of 79. Dr. Berson was known for founding the Berman-Gund Laboratory for the Study of Retinal Degenerations, where he advanced early understanding of retinitis pigmentosa. He is credited with discovering that electroretinography (ERG) testing could be used to detect retinitis pigmentosa (RP) as early as 10 years before the onset of symptoms or the appearance of pigment in the retina.
He also led research about the benefits of vitamins and antioxidants on eye disease, developing the first treatment regimen for adults with common forms of RP (Vitamin A palmitate 15,000 IU/day, an omega-3-rich oily fish diet (1-2 three ounce servings per week) and lutein 12mg per day) which has the possibility of adding up to 20 additional years of vision for patients who start the treatment by age 40.
Dr. Berson also discovered the first gene defects associated with RP–point mutations in the rhodopsin gene. In his research, he identified 20 genes with mutations that lead to RP and allied retinal degenerations.
Dr. Berson attended medical school at Harvard in 1962, completed his residency at Washington University School of Medicine in 1966, and was clinical associate in ophthalmology at the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Blindness at the National Institute of Health from 1966-1968. He was the William F. Chatlos Professor of Ophthalmology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Boston.