Department of Ophthalmology
School of Medicine Queen's University

Our History

A Brief History of the Department of Ophthalmology 

Ophthalmology started as a defined department at Queen’s and it’s affiliated hospitals when it separated from the ENT in 1954. I was the first head of the fledgling department. The principal efforts in my starting years were the organization of the undergraduate curriculum, the development of clinical and surgical facilities and the search for new faculty. At that time, while individuals had areas of special interest and training, we were all trained to be and practiced as general ophthalmologists. 

The organization of the ophthalmology residency program began in 1957. Lacking a critical mass of faculty and patients in Kingston, we organized a “partnership” with the University of Ottawa and the two major Ottawa Hospitals. The first residents were from Mexico (Alberto Warman), England (Godfrey Gransden) and Wales (Tony Griffiths). Those that followed were, primarily, graduates of Queen’s and other Canadian Medical Schools. They were recruited and appointed by Queen’s and their training time was divided between Kingston and Ottawa. 

After some four years of experience, we and our Ottawa colleagues felt confident and competent to proceed separately. Our residency was repatriated to the Kingston Campus and soon expanded to two appointments each year. At each stage we were able to satisfy the training requirements of the of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. For several years we offered a fourth year of training, either in research or in a combined ophthalmic and neuro-pathology program, the latter in collaboration with David Robertson of the Department of Pathology. 

Key to the rapid and successful development of the residency program were the arrival on our staff of Jean de Margerie who came from training in Edinburgh and a Rhodes Scholarship, Ronald Pinkerton who had received a glaucoma fellowship with Morton Grant at Harvard, and Tsuyoshi (Go) Yamashita, an ophthalmic pathologist, who came to us for a few years from Washington University, St. Louis. John Morgan, a Toronto alumnus, joined us when he completed his term in the RCAF with a special interest in contact lenses and Wendell Willis followed after his corneal fellowship at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia. With their arrival a satellite ophthalmology department was opened at the Hotel Dieu Hospital. Robert Perry, one of our Queen’s residents returned as a pediatric ophthalmologist after his post-residency fellowship with Arthur Jampolsky in San Francisco, as did Raymond Bell following a fellowship in neuro-ophthalmology at the University of Iowa. 

The Queen’s program primarily attracted graduates of Canadian medical schools. Those who went through the program during my years as head went on to establish practices in Kingston, Ottawa, Montreal, Cornwall, Belleville, Trenton, Orillia, Brantford, Chatham, several British Columbia cities and elsewhere. 

This basically was the department until 1973. In that year I asked to be relieved of my administrative responsibilities and received a sabbatical leave during which I was a Visiting Professor at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School and the Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, England. Ronald Pinkerton succeeded me as Department Head. When I returned in 1974 I was allowed to pursue my interests in medical retinal disease, ophthalmic pathology and teaching. In 1978 I accepted an academic post in New York, left Kingston and became part of Queen’s history! 

I look upon it as the defining privilege of my professional life to have been allowed the opportunity, the encouragement and the resources to develop an excellent and well recognized ophthalmology residency. Long may it flourish! 

David A. Rosen 

In 1973... 

In 1973, I took over the Headship of the Department of Ophthalmology from David Rosen. 

Graduate education in Ophthalmology was one of my main interests and I built on our previous strengths. We provided our residents with a strong base of clinical experience and developed clear statements of expectations and responsibilities for each level of trainee. 

A structured academic program based on the excellent American Academy of Ophthalmology course was completed in two year cycles of 4-5 seminars series each year. We consciously avoided the use of outside courses (with the notable exception of Ophthalmic Pathology and the AFIP) and relied on our own staff in each specialty to be the seminar directors (an onerous duty which was accepted with good grace). Visiting ‘experts' were brought in at the end of each seminar series to present updates, clarify problems (if possible) and to give another's view to the topic. It was a stimulating way to teach and learn and demanded significant preparation time from both residents and seminar directors. 

These were: 

Dr. R.A. Bell (Neuropath and Ophthamologic Pathology) 
Dr. A.F. Cruess (Retina) 
Dr. J.F. Morgan (External Disease, contact lenses, optics and refraction) 
Dr. R.J. Perry and subsequently Dr. B.W. Arthur (Pediatrics and Motility) 
Dr. R.M.H. Pinkerton (Glaucoma) 
Dr. D.A. Rosen (Retina and Ophthalmologic Pathology) 
Dr. W.E. Willis (Cornea and Anterior Segment) 
Resident attendance and participation was mandatory at the seminar series and was encouraged at national and international meetings. Funding for these meetings was supported by Queen's alumni, Dr. Ernie Johnson of Calgary and Dr. David Barsky of Detroit. 

Drs. J.E.R. Gauthier, A.Y. Kerr, R.D. Macklin and G.A. Taylor gave many hours of clinical teaching, seminar series and especially surgical supervision in the O.R.. They provided enthusiastic and strong role modeling for the residents. Dr. Taylor's long active association with ORBIS brought the program a strong awareness of international and 3 rd world needs and practice of ophthalmology. 

Dr. Vlad Kratky, a graduate of the Toronto program, joined the department in the late 80's and developed a strong ocular/plastic surgery program. 

Many of the staff became examiners for the Royal College. Our residents were found to be well prepared and all were successful in passing their Fellowship examinations. With this reputation, we had little difficulty in obtaining prestigious subspecialty Fellowships. 

Our graduates of the period 1973-1991 have practiced with distinction across Canada and in sundry U.S. cities. Two are currently holding Headships in major Canadian university – Dr. Alan Cruess (Dalhousie) and Dr. Fred Mikelberg (Univ. of B.C.) 

Research was formally carried out in the early years by Dr. J.F. Morgan. He developed an international reputation in contact lens technology and pharmacology. 

Most residents undertook a research project with a staff member which was ultimately presented at the appropriate COS section meetings or the Can Ophthalmologic Pathology Study Group. This research was used as a teaching tool. 

Subsequent to the return of Dr. A.F. Cruess in 1983, he organized and completed one of the first multicentred collaborating clinical trails in Canada on the treatment of retinal macular lesions. This study launched his international career in retinal disease. It also produced one of the best ocular photographic units in the country. 

We held (when finances allowed it) annual symposia with invited local Canadian and International faculty. There were excellent events that were well attended and did much to reduce our relative academic isolation in Kingston and also served as a showpiece for the Department. 

The presence of well-trained and committed nursing, ophthalmic technical and secretarial staff emphasized and proved the value of team work in the clinical setting. Their long and loyal service contributed greatly to the camaraderie of those days. No Birthday was forgotten or success overlooked.

After 18 years of Headship, I stepped down in 1991. I have many happy memories of the personalities and rigors of those years. Dr. A.F. Cruess succeeded me as the Head of the Department. 

Writing this short account in 2004, the 50 th Anniversary year of the founding of the Department, I wish all current members the strength and vigor to continue with the enthusiasm and commitment to serve, teaching and research with which it has been endowed. 

Ronald Pinkerton