[Skip to Navigation]
Sign In
June 2004

Bernice Zimmer Brown, MD (1931-2003)

Arch Ophthalmol. 2004;122(6):939. doi:10.1001/archopht.122.6.939

Dr Bernice Zimmer Brown (Figure 1),past president of the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and ReconstructiveSurgery (ASOPRS), Altamonte Springs, Fla, and the first woman to be acceptedas a resident by the Doheny Eye Institute of the University of Southern California(USC), Los Angeles, died on December 24, 2003. At the time of her death, shewas a clinical professor of ophthalmology and the fellowship director of ophthalmicplastic, orbital, and reconstructive surgery at the Doheny Eye Institute.She was a founding member of Women in Ophthalmology (WIO), San Francisco,Calif; editor of the Journal of Ophthalmic Plastic and ReconstructiveSurgery from 1997 to 1999; and a member of ASOPRS, of which she waspresident in 1990. Through her leadership roles at the Doheny Eye Institute,WIO, ASOPRS, and the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), San Francisco,she leaves behind a legion of ophthalmologists she mentored and numerous colleagueswho will miss her intelligence, dedication, quick wit, and poise.

Bernice Zimmer Brown, MD, 1931-2003.

Bernice Zimmer Brown, MD, 1931-2003.

Born and raised in Altoona, Pa, she moved to southern California withher family as a teenager, and in the 1960s, she decided to go to medical schoolwhile raising 2 young daughters. Despite being Phi Beta Kappa as an undergraduateat the University of California at Los Angeles, she was told by one medicalschool to "go home and raise [her] children." Undeterred, she received herdoctor of medicine from USC (where she was elected Alpha Omega Alpha), completedher residency at the Doheny Eye Institute-Los Angeles County USC Medical Center,and finished fellowships in ophthalmic plastic, orbital, and reconstructivesurgery at the University of California at San Francisco and the Eye FoundationHospital in Birmingham, Ala, all the while able to attend every parent-teacherconference and back-to-school night for her daughters, much to their chagrin,they recall.

She opened her practice at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital in Los Angelesin 1969. From 1985 until her death, she supervised a rotation popular amongDoheny/USC residents for its high surgical volume and monthly trips to theCalexico Eye Clinic (next to the US-Mexico border) to provide both medicaland surgical eye care to individuals limited by location or poverty. Whena large health care corporation threatened to axe the Calexico program (fundedby donations and supported by volunteers), she rallied support from her colleaguesat Doheny-USC, including Ronald E. Smith, MD, and Alfredo Sadun, MD, to fightthe attempt and won. Even as a subspecialist, she sought to improve accessto ophthalmological services, and she was one of the first directors of theEye Care Network, the physician panel for Medicare Eye Services, on whoseboard she served for more than 25 years.

She was both an inspirational team player and leader. She was a foundingmember of WIO; president of the California Academy of Ophthalmology, San Francisco,in 1989; the first recipient of the Suzanne Veronneau-Troutman Award fromthe WIO; Alumnus of the Year from the USC School of Medicine; president ofthe Los Angeles Society of Ophthalmology; and recipient of the DistinguishedAlumnus Award from the Doheny/USC Professional Association. In addition, shereceived the Senior Achievement Award from the AAO and the prestigious LesterT. Jones Anatomy Award from ASOPRS. She also sat on the board of directorsof the Doheny Eye Medical Group. Growing up with few female physician rolemodels, she served as one herself for many ophthalmologists. Writes BarbaraArnold, MD, past president of WIO, "It is a certainty that I, nor many womenmuch younger than I, never felt a generation gap; she stayed in touch withall . . . she was one to take great joy and pride in discovering new youngtalent." Starting in 1998, she chaired the first 3 WIO symposia at the annualAAO meeting. These symposia covered clinical, scientific, and social topicsand were well attended by both men and women.

Dr Brown was a frequent invited guest lecturer at meetings and organizationsbecause of her expertise in ophthalmic plastic and reconstructive surgeryand her eloquence. In 1975, she founded the Beard-Quickert Study Club namedafter her mentors at the University of California at San Francisco. She wasalso a founding member and a former president of the Los Angeles ResearchStudy Club, as she was keenly interested in ophthalmic research.

Her zeal extended beyond ophthalmology; she was a world traveler (shecycled through France, watched the Australian Tennis Open, and saw the rainforestsof the Amazon), an avid reader, and a connoisseur of cinema, theater, music,ballet, and fine chocolate. She was also known for her impeccable dress andjewelry.

She was thoughtful and generous, often going out of her way for others.Because she said she knew many women had scrimped and saved through theirtraining, she insisted that the WIO annual retreats be held in tasteful locationsoffering plenty of recreational diversions.

A professional success story, she always returned to the importanceof family and friends. She took pleasure in raising her daughters and "mentees."Her astute philosophical quips on motherhood, marriage, friendship, and lovewill be greatly missed. She is survived by her husband, Donald S. Mullins,and 2 daughters, Trudy B. Brown and Melanie L. Brown.

Corresponding author: Irene C. Kuo, MD, Wilmer Eye Institute, 4924Campbell Blvd, Suite 100, Baltimore, MD 21236 (e-mail: ickuo@jhmi.edu).