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Department History

The foundation for one of the first ophthalmology services in the country was laid by the University of Maryland's first Dean, Dr. John Beale Davidge. The first chair in the nation for diseases of the eye and ear was established at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1873. This formal establishment of an ophthalmic presence provided a rich environment for careful clinical observations and surgical innovation. The following points highlight these innovations and other important milestones in the history of the department.

old fashioned eye test
  • 1812: Dr. William Gibson was the first surgeon to divide rectus muscles of the eye for correction of strabismus.

  • 1824: Dr. George Frick, Baltimore's leading oculist at the time, published "A Treatise on the Diseases of the Eye." This was the first book on ophthalmology written by an American author.

  • The Department of Ophthalmology's Dr. E. G. Loring was the first to conceive of an ophthalmoscope with sixteen lenses mounted on a rotating disc with concave and plane mirror attachments. This was the forerunner of the modern ophthalmoscope.

  • 1868: Dr. Russell Murdock conducted the first teaching clinics on diseases of the eye in Baltimore. He was the first to perform unassisted surgical cataract extraction and was well-known for making new surgical instruments for eye surgery. Among his designs were an eye speculum, iris forceps, a cystotome and a camera for detecting, illustrating and correcting various defects of vision.

  • 1871: Dr. Julian J. Chisolm founded the Baltimore Eye and Ear Hospital. He went on to found the Presbyterian Charity Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital in 1877.

  • 1872: Dr. Aaron Friedenwald was one of the first to report the Graefe method of iridectomy for treatment of glaucoma in the American literature. He was also instrumental in establishing the Association of American Medical Colleges.

  • 1873: Dr. Julian J. Chisolm was appointed the first chair of the newly independent Department of Ophthalmology. In addition to the founding of two hospitals, Dr. Chisolm was best known for early ambulation of patients after cataract surgery and was the first ophthalmologist in America to do this surgery on an outpatient basis.

    • During Dr. Chisolm's tenure as Chair, the Baltimore University Clinic became famous for performing the most advanced ocular surgeries available at that time, such as cataract, artificial pupil, squint, enucleation and reopening of the tear passages.

  • 1896: Dr. Hiram Woods discovered the development of amblyopia secondary to quinine poisoning, as well as the blinding effects of methanol poisoning following the consumption of illicit liquors.

    • During the ensuing years the faculty at the University of Maryland included such renown ophthalmologists as Dr. Harry Friedenwald, Dr. Clyde Clapp (known for his studies on protein change in the lens with cataract) and Dr. Jonas Friedenwald.

  • 1960 – 1990: Dr. Richard D. Richards was appointed Professor and Chair. His primary area of interest was the mechanism of radiation damage to the eye. The department grew and flourished during his tenure. Full-time faculty were recruited who were active in clinical and basic research, and the department attracted significant funding from NIH and RPB for these efforts.

  • 1990-91: Dr. Richards became acting Dean of the medical school from July, 1990 through August 1991, at which time he announced his retirement.

  • 1991-1993: During the difficult time after Dr Richards’ retirement, several Acting Chairs led the Department and many well-established faculty members left to enter private practice.

  • Dr. Eve Higginbotham
  • 1994: Dr. Eve Higginbotham (right) was appointed the first female Chair of a Department of Ophthalmology in the US. She established an active community outreach program and started the student "Sight-Savers" program at the School of Medicine. She remained chair until 2006, when she accepted the position of Dean of the School of Medicine, Morehead State University.

  • 2006: Dr. Ramzi Hemady was named Acting Chair of the department.

  • 2011: Dr. Robert A. Liss was named Interim Chair of the department.

  • 2013: Bennie H. Jeng, MD, MS, was named Chair of the department.