Friday, April 27, 2012


Jack Holladay inducted into ASCRS Ophthalmology Hall of Fame in emotional ceremony

By Howard Larkin in Chicago

Internationally known for his pioneering work in optics, including brightness acuity tester for assessing the impact of glare on vision and widely used IOL power calculation formulae, Jack T Holladay MD MSEE FACS, was inducted into ASCRS’ Ophthalmology Hall of Fame. In an emotional address to the opening session of the ASCRS Symposium, Dr Holladay thanked colleagues for their support following high-risk aortic surgery in 2010, and cited his teaching experiences as among the most rewarding of his life.

Dr Holladay has contributed immensely to improving the understanding of optics in ophthalmology, including glare testing, interpretation of corneal topography and the nature of astigmatism, said Douglas Koch MD, Houston, US. His IOL consultant power calculation software that takes into account factors such as corneal transplants and refractive surgery have improved vision outcomes for cataract patients around the world.

Dr Holladay spoke from the perspective of one who came close to death. His operation to correct an aortic aneurysm involved lowering his body temperature enough for him to survive cutting off blood flow to his brain for about 20 minutes during the procedure, followed by an eight-day coma, he said.

“I had a one in 10,000 chance of survival. The intensive cardiologist just happened to be walking down the hall and the only surgeon in Houston who could do the procedure was doing heart surgery upstairs,” said Dr Holladay. Though he is still a Clinical Professor at Baylor College of Medicine, he no longer sees patients. Holding back tears, he haltingly recounted the support he received from his family during his eight-day coma, and the hundreds of messages from colleagues and students around the world.

“After 37 years in ophthalmology I had to retire because I wasn’t quite the same after the operation. Looking back, the things I think about are not the patents, not the papers, none of those things, really. It’s the teaching,” Dr Holladay said. In 40 years of teaching, as an engineer before he completed his medical training and as a physician, Dr Holladay estimates he has taught more than 10,000 ophthalmologists in optics.

Dr Holladay added: “I wanted to create for them the same excitement I had about the optics of the eye that is such a miracle; get them to understand this miraculous device that allows us to interact with the world. Every day we perform a miracle on patients by restoring their vision. Within a few hours they can go from complete blindness to vision that is almost perfect. Most important, I am grateful for all the friends I have around the world in ophthalmology. I say to you thank you, thank you so much.”

Embracing Dr Holladay at the podium, ASCRS Foundation Chair Richard Lindstrom MD, Minneapolis, Minnesota, US, shared the warm feelings Dr Holladay expressed. “He is a friend, colleague and a true giant in the field. His tenacity, commitment and sheer brilliance have given us some of the greatest advances in all of ophthalmology.”

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