The early faculty members of Bascom Palmer Eye Institute recognized Dr. Edward W.D. Norton for his “genius,extraordinary vision,tolerance, imagination and administrative ability.”* They were attracted to the prospect of working along side Dr. Norton, whom they respectfully and fondly referred to as, “The Chief.”
U.S.News and World Reports has ranked BPEI as the nation’s best in ophthalmology for the twelve consecutive year. And I work there!
During the twenty-eight years I have had the privilege to work in the midst of world renowned faculty members. Many of whom have contributed to research and discoveries that changed surgical techniques and improved visual outcomes for ophthalmologists and patients around the world.
The eye institute is part of the Department of Ophthalmology at the Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami. The number of faculty and staff has grown significantly over the years. Most of the original faculty and staff have retired from daily responsibilities. The accumulative accomplishments are too numerous to detail here. If you are curious, the links below will be enlightening.
A new generation of ophthalmologists and staff are following in the footsteps of the “founding five.” So many of the individuals who now continue their legacy have never met the elder eye docs. But continue the tradition of excellence.
The rich history leading up to present rankings may be under appreciated by the growing ranks of employees. All new hires complete an orientation program; I don’t know how much of the interesting history may be diluted.
Within the walls of the hospital (Anne Bates Leach) building, there are two areas I have always found fascinating. The Florida Lions Eye Bank and the rare book room in the Mary and Edward Norton Library.
The eye bank and the pathology lab are side by side. The ophthalmology path lab evaluates ocular tissue and tumors from community ophthalmologists as well as faculty physicians. The eye bank holds donor eyes. Some of the donations will be used for corneal transplants. Donor eyes not suitable for transplants are used by residents for further their education and to develop and practice their surgical techniques and skills.
The rare book room is the home of more than 2,000 rare and historical books. Most of the books in this room are displayed behind locked glass doors. The temperature and humidity is carefully controlled. Access is similar to a safety deposit box at any bank. Dr. Norton appreciated the importance of the book collection, often bringing back additional books from his world travels.
Patients travel from all over the world for treatment at Bascom Palmer. HIPPA regulations forbid revealing names or information about patients. However, the patients served is as diverse and impressive as one can imagine. Movie stars, royalty, entertainers, politicians, artists have all passed through the doors.
Dr. Norton’s philosophy was to turn no patient away regardless of their ability to pay. That has changed a bit over time and due to budget constraints. Patients are usually not turned away; payment for their care is subsidized in various ways.
Many of the physicians and staff have traveled to third world countries to teach local doctors eye care as well as perform surgeries. The Vision Van travels locally as well as internationally to natural disaster sites.
As I look ahead to my retirement I also look back over the amazing advances and improvements in eye care that I have witnessed; my contributions not insignificant. I have been a part of a top ranked department. What an incredible experience and honor it has been for me.
This small town girl who had a limited world and simple dreams of a future has come a long way. Max Ehrmann’s words from Desiderata keep me in check.
“If you compare yourself to others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”
Ya’ll come back now!
* Ellenberg, Todd. 25 Years of Vision The Story of Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. Miami, 1986