Dr Robert Haimovici died on October 9, 2002, at age 40 after a 7-year battle with cancer. We mourn the loss of a good friend and esteemed colleague.
Robert Haimovici was born on November 15, 1961, in Rumania, the only child of his mother, a Holocaust survivor, and his father, the son of landowners. In 1963, the family emigrated from Rumania to escape communism via Italy to Fall River, Mass. Robert grew up in Newton, Mass, excelling in school, in music as a trombonist and pianist, and in sports, playing soccer, tennis, and golf. He developed a thirst for travel early, traveling to Europe with his parents in the summers. Robert completed the 6-year combined undergraduate and medical education program at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill, in 1986 with a brief tour at Harvard College as a visiting student in the 1981-1982 academic year. Ophthalmology chair emeritus, Dr David Shoch befriended and mentored Robert during his years at Northwestern and is in part responsible for Robert's pursuit of ophthalmology as a career.
Robert completed his ophthalmology residency at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, Fla, followed by a retina fellowship with Prof Alan Bird at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, England, from January 1991 to June 1992. Working with Professor Bird, Robert developed an interest in macular disease, writing articles on Sorsby's fundus dystrophy and dominant drusen. From 1992 to 1994 Robert completed a vitreoretinal fellowship at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Harvard Medical School, Boston. He investigated angiography and fluorescence localization of photosensitizers, contributing to the work that ultimately led to the clinical adoption of verteporfin photodynamic therapy as the first pharmacologic therapy for neovascular macular degeneration. In addition, Robert investigated clinical topics, including the relationship between inhaled and intranasal corticosteroids and central serous choroidopathy, an area he continued to pursue. He excelled in both laboratory and clinical research and was esteemed for his superb organizational skills.
In 1994, Robert was appointed assistant professor of ophthalmology at Boston University School of Medicine where he quickly built a productive clinical and research program. He continued his investigations of age-related macular degeneration, studying the lipid composition of Bruch's membrane in aging eyes using hot-stage polarizing microscopy. He also began a program in diabetic retinopathy, including a study of the expression of connexin 43 in microvascular endothelial cells exposed to high levels of glucose. Robert had applied for continued funding for these projects from the American Diabetes Association, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Robert's contributions were recognized early on by his peers, and he was a member of many professional societies, including The Retina Society, The Vitreous Society (now The American Society of Retina Specialists), The Society of Heed Fellows, and the Club Jules Gonin. He was voted a member of the Macula Society posthumously in October 2002. His promotion to associate professor of ophthalmology at Boston University School of Medicine was finalized in December 2002. Robert was intellectually gifted and scientifically productive, and it was a pleasure to collaborate with him, as he combined creative ideas, hard work, and an attitude of quiet humility.
Robert was an athlete and adventurer, and ran 2 marathons, the second of which he ran 1 year after being diagnosed as having leukemia. He traveled extensively, including trips to Indonesia, Guatemala, and Africa where he climbed to the summit of Kilimanjaro. He met his wife-to-be Jeanne on a blind date when she was a radiology resident. Ever the romantic, Robert proposed to Jeanne on the shore of a glacial lake at the foot of Cerro Torre in southern Patagonia. Robert was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia in June 1995, married in October 1996, and had 2 children, daughter Claudia in July 1997, and son Andrew in May 1999. Robert died in October 2002 of infectious complications related to treatment for large cell lymphoma to which his chronic lymphocytic leukemia had transformed.
Robert was a creative and productive physician-scientist and we will miss the contributions and professional insights that remained in his future. He was a sympathetic mentor and his students and fellows have benefited from his guidance. He remained productive despite his illness and therapy, which included chemotherapy, radiation, and bone marrow transplantation, authoring 21 peer-reviewed articles after receiving his diagnosis, with 2 additional papers revised and resubmitted just prior to his death and recently accepted for publication. While preparing for the worst, Robert never stopped moving forward. To the end Robert remained a prince among men, with a gentle and thoughtful manner and a sparkling sense of humor.
In Robert's memory, 2 visiting professorships in retinal diseases will be funded in perpetuity at the Boston University School of Medicine and Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.
Miller JW, D'Amico DJ, Gragoudas ES. Robert Haimovici, MD (1961-2002). Arch Ophthalmol. 2003;121(6):922. doi:10.1001/archopht.121.6.922