On August 22, 2011, the neuro-ophthalmology community lost a giant. Arthur H. Wolintz, MD, passed away at the age of 74 from complications of multiple myeloma.
My father was born in Brooklyn, New York. He attended public school and majored in history at New York University, completing his studies in 3 years. He graduated summa cum laude from Downstate Medical Center and was selected to the Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) Honor Medical Society.
He became a house officer at Maimonides Medical Center with the goal of becoming a cardiologist. But after studying at the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Blindness, he turned to neurology, completing a residency (and chief residency) at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. There, he came under the spell of Morris Bender, MD, the brilliant phenomenologist, who induced him to take a fellowship in neuropathology at Columbia University.
He returned to Brooklyn to join the faculty at SUNY Downstate and Maimonides Medical Center. Soon he realized that his passion lay in how the eye relates to the brain. He decided to do a residency in ophthalmology at Downstate Medical Center, later becoming one of the first neuro-ophthalmologists to be board certified in both neurology and ophthalmology.
He went on to author a textbook titled Essentials of Clinical Neuro-Ophthalmology, over 55 peer-reviewed articles, and several book chapters. He served on the staff of nearly every hospital in Brooklyn, creating and chairing the Department of Ophthalmology at Downstate Medical Center and Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center for a quarter of a century and establishing a much sought-after clinical rotation and fellowship in neuro-ophthalmology.
The recipient of numerous teaching awards, he received the honor of Distinguished Teaching Professor in the University System of the State University of New York in 1997. In 1992, the SUNY medical students selected him as counselor of their AOA chapter.
He taught, influenced, inspired, and mentored hundreds of students, residents, fellows, and colleagues. To his residents and fellows, he was not just a mentor but also a second “father” who helped them obtain positions and continued to guide them for years afterward.
He would request reprints of his favorite articles from medical journals and store them in enormous files. If you mentioned a topic, he could find the pertinent original papers and hand them to you. The keeper of those files was his wife Carol, who managed his neuro-ophthalmology office for more than 40 years. To my father, “don’t leave the house without it” meant “don’t leave without Carol.”
My father knew all his patients by name, and he could talk to them about family matters and their personal interests. In his waiting room was posted the following notice: “Waiting is a nuisance, but I promise that you will receive my careful attention.”
When my father was not practicing neuro-ophthalmology, he was studying Judaism or worshipping in that faith. He celebrated his Bar Mitzvah at the Flatbush Jewish Center and essentially never left. Able to chant any portion from the Torah or Haftorah without any preparation, he ran the auxiliary services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur every year of his adult life.
He shaped my approach to medicine, to neuro-ophthalmology, and to life. Before I could even read, he took me on weekend rounds with Dr. Morris Bender, Chair of the Department of Neurology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. When he started his ophthalmology residency, he taught me how to use a direct ophthalmoscope. When I began my neurology rotation as a medical student, his eyes would shine with each case we discussed.
Dad did not travel very much, but one of his last trips was to the North American Neuro-Ophthalmology Meeting in Tucson, Arizona, in 2010. In the past, when we attended such meetings together, I was always in awe of the people he knew and the respect they had for him. At the meeting in Tucson, he told me how proud he was of being known as “the father of Dr. Robyn J. Wolintz.”
I am proud to be able to say that Arthur H. Wolintz, MD, was not just my mentor and my friend but most importantly my father.