Montefiore Medical Center’s humanistic tradition began in 1884, when New York’s philanthropic community sought to honor the memory of Sir Moses Montefiore, the most widely known Jewish leader and philanthropist of the nineteenth century. The Montefiore Home for Chronic Invalids, established as a charity hospital for the care of indigent patients with incurable disease, and has since evolved into a modern, high-technology, tertiary medical center. The MMC continues to reach out to and serve the neediest members of its Bronx community. The medical center established its department of ophthalmology and visual sciences in the late 1930s, with Dr. Samuel Gartner serving as its first director.
Chartered in 1950 Albert Einstein College of Medicine, opened its doors in 1955. It has since become one of the nation’s most distinguished centers for medical education and research. As the founders of the College of Medicine and its namesake, Albert Einstein, envisioned, it is an institution of higher learning that is accessible to members of all ethnic and religious minorities. In 1958, Dr. Max Chamlin developed the ophthalmology program at Einstein, and was appointed its first chair. The departments of each institution were formally unified in 1969. Dr. Paul Henkind, Frances DeJur Professor of Ophthalmology, was selected as the first chair of the unified department and was instrumental in enhancing the department’s reputation, particularly in retinal vascular and degenerative diseases. He also also served as chair of the Macula Society’s research committee.
We honor Dr. Henkind with the annual Henkind Research Conference. Additionally, the American Society of Retina Specialists’ annual Paul Henkind Memorial Lecture award is presented to an individual in recognition of their outstanding retinal research. Dr. Henkind’s died in 1986; to this day, the Henkind family continues to be involved in many philanthropic activities on behalf of our department, as well.
In 1988, Dr. Ronald M. Burde, born and raised in the Bronx, and formerly professor of ophthalmology, of neurology and of neurological surgery at the Washington University School of Medicine, was appointed chair. Dr. Burde also served as editor of the Journal of Neuro-Ophthalmology from 1994 to 2001. He retired in September 2000. Between 2000 and 2007, Dr. Harry Engel, a noted retinal specialist and educator, and director of clinical operations, served as interim chair. Then, from 2007 to 2009, Dr. Assumpta Madu, a glaucoma specialist and current residency program director, acted as director of clinical operations.
On July 1, 2009, Dr. Roy S. Chuck, formerly the Tom Clancy Professor and Director of Refractive Surgery at the Wilmer Eye Institute of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, assumed leadership of the department as professor and university chair, and holder of the Paul Henkind Chair in Ophthalmology.
Currently, the department has approximately 30 full-time faculty, including 5 full-time research faculty, and trains numerous postdoctoral fellows and students, including 15 residents annually. And, its clinic schedules in excess of 100,000 patient appointments annually.
The path to our department’s future is paved by the partnership between Einstein and Montefiore. As partners, these two institutions are evolving from being a tertiary care hospital in an urban environment affiliated with a medical school known for basic science research to being a leading academic medical center with a commitment to excellence and innovation in research. As both the largest medical center (serving over 650,000 individuals) and ophthalmology residency training program in the Bronx —which has an estimated population of over 1.2 million—the Einstein department of ophthalmology and visual sciences has the opportunity to be a national leader in patient care, vision research, and medical education. The hospital itself has been financially successful over the past decade and is ready and able to build on its legacy with selected investments in targeted areas. Ophthalmology is one of those chosen targets.