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August 11, 2008

Bernard Schwartz, MD, PhD (1927-2007)

Arch Ophthalmol. 2008;126(8):1171. doi:10.1001/archopht.126.8.1171

Bernie Schwartz died of a rapidly progressive malignancy in Boston, November 10, 2007, just a few days shy of his 80th birthday. He was born in Toronto, Canada, and received his medical degree from the University of Toronto. He then moved to Iowa City for his internship, ophthalmology residency, and a PhD in physiology. Remarkably, considering the campus was in rural Iowa, he felt his training there gave him a global perspective, crediting the European influences of Drs H. M. Burian and Frederick C. Blodi. He also expressed admiration for his mentor Placidus J. Leinfelder, MD, for his ability to be both a skilled clinician and a basic science researcher and considered the integration of the clinical and basic science departments on the same campus “a fundamental stimulus” for his own career.1

Bernard Schwartz, MD, PhD

Bernard Schwartz, MD, PhD

He was on the full-time faculty of the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center for 8 years before moving to Boston to become professor and chair of Tufts University School of Medicine's Department of Ophthalmology in July of 1968. He was proud that he “developed a full-time academic department of ophthalmology where none had existed previously, including medical student, residency and fellowship training programs.”1 He retired from his chairmanship in 1990 but remained active professionally up until his brief, final illness. At the time of his death, he had 3 papers being considered for publication.

He served as editor in chief of the Survey of Ophthalmology from 1967 until his death, transforming the publication into an “international review journal” that is widely read and cited. In 2000 he founded Comprehensive Ophthalmology Update and was its editor in chief and publisher.

Dr Schwartz's first research interest was in the physiology of the crystalline lens, but he soon turned his research and clinical focus to glaucoma. He studied the ocular hypertensive effects of corticosteroids and postulated that there were defects in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in patients with glaucoma. By the time I joined the faculty at Tufts in 1977, he was doing pioneering work on imaging of the glaucomatous optic disc, with 6 articles on this subject published in that year alone. He received the Presidential Award of the American Glaucoma Society in March 2007.

In addition to being a physician and surgeon—with a legendary sangfroid in the operating room—Dr Schwartz was a gentleman and a scholar. He inspired his associates and trainees and supported their professional development. He traveled widely and lectured and published all over the world. Many of his fellows came from outside the United States, a product of what he liked to call his “international approach.”1 He is survived by his wife Marcia (née Struhl) and his children, Ariane, Jennifer, Karen, and Lawrence.

Correspondence: Dr Gittinger, 85 E Concord St, Eighth Floor, Boston, MA 02118 (john.gittinger@bmc.org).

Schwartz  B Ophthalmology at Tufts 1968-1990: More Than Two Decades of Unification and Progress. Boston, MA Stellar Medical Publications1999;