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March 2004

Daniel M. Jacobson, MD (1956-2003)

Arch Ophthalmol. 2004;122(3):427. doi:10.1001/archopht.122.3.427

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a pieceof the continent, a part of the main . . . when one man dies, one chapteris not torn out of the book, but translated. . . . any man's death diminishesme . . . and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tollsfor thee.—John Donne, Meditation XVII, 1623.

Neuro-ophthalmology has lost a strong clinical voice, Daniel M. Jacobson,MD. With his death, our lives are diminished.

Dan Jacobson, MD

Dan Jacobson, MD

Dan was born on July 20, 1956, in East Grand Rapids, Mich, to Stuartand Lyn Jacobson. He received his bachelor of science degree at the Universityof Texas in Austin and his doctor of medicine degree at the University ofTexas, Houston. At the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pa, he finishedhis neurology residency. Thereafter, he completed a fellowship at the Universityof Iowa, Iowa City, under H. Stanley Thompson, MD, and James J. Corbett, MD.From there, he joined the Marshfield Clinic, Marshfield, Wis, in the Departmentsof Neurology and Ophthalmology. He served on the clinical faculty of the Universityof Wisconsin Medical School, Madison, since 1988. He died July 27, 2003, afterhaving esophageal cancer for 3 years.

The death of Dan Jacobson diminishes our world in several ways. We willmiss his consistently cheerful energy and his contributions to clinical neuro-ophthalmology.He had a talent for asking clinically relevant questions and answering themwith simple, elegant studies based on patients that he saw. We use his findingsalmost daily in ophthalmic clinics across the country. For example, his article1 on subtle pupillary involvement in diabetic thirdnerve palsies reassures those of us who see third nerve palsies in patientswith diabetes mellitus that there can be mild pupillary asymmetry in thesepatients. We quote his article2 on unilateralmydriasis of migraine regularly when seeing anxious young patients with benignepisodic mydriasis. He also reported a study of divergence insufficiency thatoutlines the pitfalls of that diagnosis.3 Becauseof these and many other valuable published studies, Dan was the recipientof several research awards. He was writing almost up to the day of his death.His clinical research, he said, made him feel alive and useful. He was theauthor of more than 57 peer-reviewed papers, 18 letters to the editor, 13abstracts, and 32 book chapters, all within a 17-year period.

We will also miss his love of teaching. As a fellow, there was a daywhen he suddenly realized that he knew more neuro-ophthalmology than the eyeresidents around him, and it lit a fire in him. It gave him great pleasureto pass this new knowledge along. For example, he organized a summary of thevarious kinds of nystagmus that we had been videotaping because he wantedthe residents to learn what he was learning.4 Thevideo he assembled and narrated that year is still available for viewing at http://medstat.med.utah.edu/neuroophth. Every time we hear Dan's voiceon these educational recordings, we are reminded that the fire never wentout. For the rest of his days, he had a passionate dedication to furtheringknowledge and teaching students at all levels.

We will miss his advice. Whether it was advice on how to set up a studyor his advice on papers, Dan's forthright, nonjudgmental advice was well thought-outand always direct without selfishness. Dan helped anyone who asked.

We will miss him at national meetings. He not only moderated and presentedregularly at the North American Neuro-ophthalmology Society, West Hartford,Conn, he also participated in both the American Academy of Ophthalmology,San Francisco, Calif, and American Academy of Neurology, St Paul, Minn, teachingsessions. Dan had more than 70 oral presentations nationally and internationally.His self-effacing style, "I am not an expert in this, but this is what I do,"would be followed by a string of clinical pearls that helped every physicianin the audience do a better job of taking care of patients.

We will miss his organizational skills. Dan was a member of the boardof directors for the North American Neuro-ophthalmology Society as well asthe chair of the abstract committee for years. Any task assigned was completed.

Above all we will miss his friendship. Dan was a friend to everyonewith kind words and a ready smile to all. He was in all of his relationshipshonest and direct.

Besides our loss, he leaves behind his wife, Ruth, and 3 children: TaylorAnn, aged 15 years; Alex Elizabeth (Allie), aged 12 years; and Graeme Scott,aged 8 years.

At Dan's memorial service, it was striking to hear from his friends,relatives, family, and colleagues that the themes he established for his liferang true in all facets of his life—professionally and personally.

This bell indeed tolls for all of us because we have lost a great clinicalresearcher, teacher, and friend.

Jacobson  DM A prospective evaluation of cholinergic supersensitivity of the irissphincter in patients with oculomotor nerve palsies.  Am J Ophthalmol. 1994;118377- 383PubMedGoogle Scholar
Jacobson  DM Benign episodic unilateral mydriasiss: clinical characteristics.  Ophthalmology. 1995;1021623- 1627PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
Jacobson  DM Divergence insufficiency revisited.  Arch Ophthalmol. 2000;1181237- 1241PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
Jacobson  DMCorbett  JJ Nystagmus.  Semin Ophthalmol. 1987;2183- 208Google ScholarCrossref