In Memoriam, David L. Epstein, MD

by Joel S Schuman, MD, President Chandler Grant Glaucoma Society

When I was an intern, we used to talk about the days of the giants. There was a time when giants walked the earth, and those of us in glaucoma, especially in the Chandler-Grant Glaucoma Society, can certainly name the giants who were in our field. Paul Chandler. Morton Grant. Robert Shaffer, Bernard Becker and Otto Barkan. There were others.

Even though it is the modern era, we have lost a giant, a true hero in our field, with the passing of David L. Epstein, MD. The consummate clinician-scientist, and an inspiring teacher and leader, Dave, as he was know to us, convinced a generation of students to study and practice glaucoma, that it was important to think about our patients, and that the problems patients presented with were relevant and worth investigating. Further, if we did not fully understand the patient's problem, then it was our responsibility to take that problem to the laboratory and figure out its mechanism and how to cure it, and then bring that treatment back to the clinic.

Dave used to say that our patients were our clinical laboratory, and by that he meant that this was where the genesis of our ideas would form and hypotheses be tested. Patients would tell us what was important to study, and whether or not our treatments had efficacy. We were to be attentive and vigilant, and never complacent.

It was never enough just to treat a patient. We had to understand the disease process and if we hadn't found a cure, then we had to do even better the next time around.

Perhaps Dave's greatest legacy is the army of clinician-scientists whom he inspired throughout the years. He loved and lived his favorite quote from Sir Francis Bacon, passed down from Paul Chandler and posted by Dave in the Mass Eye and Ear Infirmary Glaucoma Service.

I hold every man a debtor to his profession; from the which as men of course do seek to receive countenance and profit, so ought they of duty to endeavor themselves by way of amends to be a help and ornament thereunto.1

Dave was such a man.

Finally, Dave summed up his philosophy succinctly and elegantly in his Weisenfeld Lecture at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology in Seattle, WA in 2013, the year before his untimely death. He said,

When you wake up in the morning and when you look yourself in the mirror at night, are you proud of what you are doing? I truly believe that a lifetime of inquisitiveness in one's clinical laboratory will be a long-lasting source of ultimate satisfaction in one's career. Please maintain your passion! With patience and focus on what truly is important, meaningful success can come to you. If one focuses on what is truly important, the rest will take care of itself.2

Joel S. Schuman, MD - Chandler-Grant Glaucoma Society, President

References:

1. Bacon F. Opening sentences of Preface, Maxims of Law (1596). In: The Works of Francis Bacon: Law Tracts. Maxims of the Law. Vol. 4. London: J Crowder and E Hemsted, Warwick Square; 1803:10.

2. Epstein, DL. Soaring aspirations: Lessons from my mentors and colleagues: the Weisenfeld award. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2013;54:5219\965226. DOI:10.1167/iovs.13-11879

Last Updated on Thursday, September 01, 2016 12:55 PM