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Ophthalmology has lost a true pioneer and great ambassador of our profession. Samuel D. McPherson, Jr, who died September 21, 1998, at the age of 79 years, was a pioneer of microsurgery and a leader in eye care and education in North Carolina. His contributions and reputation were recognized internationally.
I remember Sam as a mentor and dear friend. Shortly after returning to Duke University following my fellowship as a glaucoma "expert," I was referred an infant with congenital glaucoma. Having had limited experience with pediatric glaucoma surgery during my formal training, I went to Sam at McPherson Hospital for help. He walked me through the trabeculotomy procedure using several of his videos and loaned me his personal set of McPherson trabeculotomes. This experience was my introduction to his contributions in ophthalmic microsurgery and his unselfishness as a teacher and friend of countless ophthalmologists.
Sam McPherson followed in the footsteps of his father. After obtaining his MD degree and completing his residency at Johns Hopkins, he joined his father's practice in Durham, NC, eventually becoming chair of ophthalmology and chief of staff at McPherson Hospital, the first institution in North Carolina to perform corneal transplantation and one of the first to provide residency training programs in microsurgery. In keeping with his father's wishes, the name of McPherson Hospital was changed to the North Carolina Eye and Ear Hospital when Sam retired.
Dr McPherson was also a pioneer in establishing residency training in ophthalmology at the University of North Carolina, where he served as head of the Division of Ophthalmology in the Department of Surgery and led the division into its status as a freestanding department in the early 1960s. He was also a clinical professor of ophthalmology at the Duke University Eye Center.
Dr McPherson published more than 150 articles in peer-reviewed journals; these articles spanned the gamut of ophthalmology but focused primarily on his interest in microsurgery for cataracts and glaucoma. Other fond memories I have of Sam include attending his superb conferences at McPherson Hospital, where we were often treated to lectures by international experts on microsurgery, all of whom were his close friends.
Dr McPherson was also a leader in several professional organizations. He served as president of the American Ophthalmological Society and first vice president of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. He chaired the Glaucoma Committee of the National Society to Prevent Blindness, which presented its Dunningham Award to him in 1987, and founded the North Carolina Society to Prevent Blindness, which drafted a resolution of gratitude to him on September 24, 1998.
In spite of the time and efforts devoted to his remarkable professional career, Sam also enjoyed a broad range of activities and was devoted to his family and his church. He was an accomplished musician, playing the trumpet in his youth and becoming proficient on the flute in his 50s. He loved fishing and hunting, which he shared with his wife of 56 years, Margaret "Peaches" Courtauld Finney McPherson. Undoubtedly, the greatest joy shared by Sam and Peaches was their son and 3 daughters and their 10 grandchildren.
After Dr McPherson's retirement in 1992, he and Peaches spent much of their time on their 80-acre farm, where Sam became an active farmer. They continued their lifelong tradition of hospitality to their many friends. All of us who were fortunate enough to have known Sam McPherson will remember him as a modest, unselfish gentleman and a true giant of our profession.
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Shields MB. Samuel D. McPherson, Jr, MD (1919-1998). Arch Ophthalmol. 1999;117(12):1670. doi:10.1001/archopht.117.12.1670
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