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Moshe Lahav, learned and compassionate physician, ophthalmologist, friend, and colleague, passed from this earth on July 30, 1998. It was a very sad, relentless march to that event. Succumbing to a rare illness, Moshe, in dying, was unique as we knew him alive. Memories of Moshe will sustain us.
Moshe's personal life and career took place in 2 countries, Israel and the United States. He was born in Israel on November 16, 1939. After he was awarded an MD degree by the Hebrew University and Hadassah Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel, in 1969, Moshe sought to extend his postgraduate education in the United States, choosing a career in ophthalmology. He applied to Yale University, New Haven, Conn, for a residency position. When I considered his academic accomplishments, intellectual status, and humanistic character, I was delighted to accept him as a resident. Moshe served our program well. He left an indelible mark, not just for weeks or months, but for years thereafter. Patients would continually ask for him long after his departure. He had a marvelous clinical and bedside touch that bordered on the miraculous. During his residency he participated in the rotation that the program at Yale University had established in Des Chapelles, Haiti, at what was then Gwen and Larry Mellon's Albert Schweitzer Hospital, named after the dedicated world leader in Lambaréné, Gabon. After his 3-month rotation in Haiti, the administration was reluctant to let Moshe leave, so strong had been the ties he had created, so loving his compassionate manner under trying circumstances. He was very well appreciated.
After completing his residency at Yale University, Moshe received training in retinal and ophthalmic pathology at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Bethesda, Md, then resumed a faculty position at Yale University for 2 years before returning to the Hadassah Medical Center for 5 years. Here he helped in the development of retinal surgery and gave leadership to the experimental and diagnostic eye pathology laboratory. Moshe had a creative mind: he bridged the gap between the clinic and laboratory by bringing the problems of the former to the latter for investigation and solution. He subsequently returned to the United States and rose to the rank of professor of ophthalmology at both Tufts University, Medford, Mass, and Boston University, Boston, Mass, where he became director of the Boston Veterans Administration service. During the development of his career, Moshe wrote a thesis to fulfill the strict requirements for membership in the American Ophthalmological Society. He was involved in other clinical and research organizations as well.
Friendship with my student began almost immediately on his arrival in New Haven. In our relationship, Moshe was the master of equivocation. The reason was clear. Both charming and modest on one hand, Moshe was, on the other, a picture of the intellectual struggling under the weight of the process of inquiry after the truth. Obstacles were those he put in his own path as a function of his honesty and integrity. Difficult as it was, it was in that spirit of inquiry where Moshe's heart lived. That was where his treasure could be found. It was no small wonder that he would seek out complicated knots to untie, especially the embryogenesis and differentiation of the normal and diseased retina. This was a place where research could be pursued happily only by one who approached the secrets of the retinal network with Moshe′s humility derived from awe and wonder. Here was the spirit drawing Moshe to the pursuit of science.
On October 9, 1998, with the help and support of Robert Bellows, MD, Carmen Puliafito, MD, and M. Bruce Shields, MD, a memorial service for Moshe was held at the New England Medical Center, Boston. We said goodbye to Moshe knowing that the memory of this gentle and humble man and talented and compassionate physician will live on in the hearts and minds of his family, friends, and international colleagues, and in the patients whom he served so well.
Sears ML. Moshe Lahav, MD, 1939-1998. Arch Ophthalmol. 1999;117(1):142. doi:10.1001/archopht.117.1.142
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