Becker receives American Academy of Ophthalmology’s highest award

Bernard Becker, M.D., who headed the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis from 1953 to 1988, is this year’s recipient of the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s highest honor.

At the October joint meeting with the Pan-American Association of Ophthalmology in San Francisco, the Academy presented its 2009 Laureate Recognition Award to honor Becker for his distinguished career and contributions to ophthalmology.

“Dr. Becker is recognized worldwide as a pioneer in ophthalmic research, clinical care, education and leadership,” says Academy president Michael Brennan, M.D. “In recognition for his commitment to teaching and education, and for his inspiration and encouragement to his students, we acknowledge the debt we all owe to him for his remarkable achievements.”

Among his many accomplishments, Becker, now professor emeritus, was instrumental in establishing the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), the world’s leading organization for ophthalmic research. He served as president of ARVO and was the first editor in chief of Investigative Ophthalmology (now Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science). He also co-authored the first two editions of Diagnosis and Therapy of the Glaucomas, one of the classic textbooks in ophthalmology.

“In his long and distinguished tenure, Bernie Becker built one of the country’s best ophthalmology departments and created a model for residency programs,” says Michael A, Kass, M.D., the Bernard Becker Professor and head of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. “He was such an outstanding mentor and scientist that it’s hard to overstate his contributions both to the University and to science.”

When he led ophthalmology and visual sciences at Washington University, the department became internationally known both for exceptional research and teaching. Many residents who trained with Becker, including Kass, now serve as department heads or hold other prominent positions in academic ophthalmology throughout the world.

“It is a great honor and quite humbling to be chosen as Laureate,” he says. “But I am much more proud of the accomplishments of the scientists and physicians who trained at Washington University. They are advancing science and assisting patients all over the world.”

Becker also served as director of the American Board of Ophthalmology from 1967 to 1974 and was a founding member of the Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology. He played a vital role in establishing the National Eye Institute, where he served in many leadership positions over the years.

A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Medical School, Becker completed his ophthalmology training at the Wilmer Ophthalmological Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. He served briefly on the faculty there before becoming head of ophthalmology at Washington University.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked third in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons—Eye MDs—with more than 27,000 members worldwide. Eye health care is provided by the three “O’s” – opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists. It is the ophthalmologist, or Eye M.D., who can treat all eye diseases and injuries and perform eye surgery. For more information, visit the Academy’s Web site at