Dr. Alice McPherson passed away in Houston, TX, on January 16, 2023. Below, we are proud to review some of her many accomplishments in a life of service and dedication to fighting and curing blinding diseases.
Dr. Alice McPherson was an accomplished physician, teacher, scholar, leader, and pioneer dedicated to the study and treatment of retinal diseases. As a founder of two leading research institutions – the Retina Research Foundation (RRF) in Houston, Texas, and the McPherson Eye Research Institute at UW-Madison – she had an enormous influence on vision research worldwide. In 2014, Dr. McPherson received the Gonin Medal, the oldest and most prestigious medal in ophthalmology, awarded by the University of Lausanne and the Societe Suisse d’Ophtalmologie. Honorees are chosen by the Board of the International Council of Ophthalmology.
Dr. McPherson received her baccalaureate and medical degrees and took her ophthalmology residency at the University of Wisconsin. She completed a retina fellowship with Dr. Charles Schepens at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. A professor of ophthalmology at Baylor College of Medicine for many years, Dr. McPherson specialized in macular degeneration and vitreoretinal diseases and surgery. She was also a Fellow of both the American College of Surgeons and the International College of Surgeons.
Her scientific contributions to ophthalmology began with pioneering scleral buckling procedures, cryotherapy and xenon arc and laser photocoagulation in the treatment of retinal diseases. She was an early and vigorous advocate of photocoagulation in the treatment of diabetic retinopathy. This was initially a controversial position, later proven correct by the large, randomized prospective National Eye Institute Diabetic Retinopathy Study.
In 1969, Dr. McPherson founded the Retina Research Foundation (RRF), one of the nation’s leading eye research organizations, dedicated to promoting understanding, prevention and treatment of retinal diseases. To accomplish this, in 1973 the RRF started to fund pilot research studies and in 1976 began collaborating with outstanding organizations to support a variety of programs in retina research around the world. The RRF supports important ongoing studies; has established research chairs and professorships at leading universities and institutions; sponsors international fellowships that provide advanced sub-specialty training to young clinician-scientists; and has developed career advancement awards for young scientists.
Dr. McPherson’s extraordinary dedication and leadership benefited many institutions and professional organizations. She received distinguished honors from numerous universities and medical scientific organizations, including the University of Wisconsin, Harvard Medical School, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the Pan American Association of Ophthalmology, and the European Society of Ophthalmology. She served as President of the Retina Society, the Pan American Association of Ophthalmology, and as Founding President of the University of Wisconsin Ophthalmology Alumni Association. In 2015, she received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.