Dr. Straatsma graduated from Yale University School of Medicine, completed residency at Harkness Eye Institute of Columbia University, and did fellowships at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology and the Wilmer Ophthalmology Institute at Johns Hopkins University. In 1959, he commenced appointment as Associate Professor and Chief of the Division of Ophthalmology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He was appointed Professor in 1962, the first Director of the Jules Stein Eye Institute in 1964, and the first Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology in 1968. He retained these positions until stepping down in 1994 and continuing as Professor Emeritus in the Department of Ophthalmology at UCLA.
Within two years after arriving at UCLA, Dr. Straatsma's discussions with Dr. Jules Stein, Founding Chairman of MCA, Inc. and an ophthalmologist, led to Dr. Stein's pledge of financial support for construction of the Jules Stein Eye Institute. This world-class facility opened in 1966 and facilities were greatly expanded by dedication of the Doris Stein Eye Research Center in 1989 and completion of the Edie and Lew Wasserman Eye Research Center in 2015.
In his very rich academic career, Dr. Straatsma has presented more than 50 distinguished lectures including the Edward Jackson Lecture at the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Focused primarily on retinal disease and ophthalmic oncology, his Curriculum Vitae includes authorship of more than 575 scientific publications.
More than 75 medals and awards received by Dr. Straatsma include the Columbia University Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa; American Academy of Ophthalmology Laureate Award; American Ophthalmological Society Lucien Howe Medal; Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology Gold Jose Rizal Medal; Middle East African Council of Ophthalmology Prince Abdulaziz Al Saud Prevention of Blindness Award; Pan-American Association of Ophthalmology Benjamin Boyd Humanitarian Award; and International Council of Ophthalmology Jules Francois Golden Medal and International Duke-Elder Medal. It was a privilege to have Dr. Straatsma deliver the Golden Jubilee Lecture of the All India Ophthalmological Society in 2003.
Leadership positions of Dr. Straatsma have included President, American Academy of Ophthalmology; President, American Ophthalmological Society; President, Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology; Chairman, American Board of Ophthalmology; President, Pan-American Association of Ophthalmology; and President, Academia Ophthalmologica Internationalis.
An enduring relationship with the American Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology (parent organization of the American Academy of Ophthalmology) began when Dr. Straatsma served as the first Secretary for Continuing Education in Ophthalmology (1969 – 1974). Dr. Straatsma and Dr. Spivey changed the former “home study course” into the Ophthalmology Basic and Clinical Science Course as it exists even now. Dr. Straatsma was the last person to serve as President of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology (1977). He presided over the difficult process of dividing the organization and the critical procedures for incorporation of the two new academies (the American Academy of Ophthalmology and American Academy of Otolaryngology). His steady, positive demeanor in the face of continuing challenges enabled a beneficial outcome for both specialties. Dr. Straatsma was the lead individual for the American Academy of Ophthalmology during the critically important and sensitive merger with the American Association of Ophthalmology in 1981. Moreover, in 1987, he edited an important document, Eye Care for the American People, which provided the Academy with a blueprint to guide ophthalmologic care for the American public.
With a major commitment to global ophthalmology, Dr Straatsma co-chaired a joint meeting of the International Council of Ophthalmology and the Academia Ophthalmologica Internationalis for global ophthalmology planning. Evolving from this week-long conference, Dr. Straatsma was primary author of Vision for the Future – The International Ophthalmology Strategic Plan to Preserve and Restore Vision published in 2002. From this strategic plan came formal curricula for ophthalmology education of medical students, residents and para-ophthalmic specialists, as well as a series of Ophthalmology Program Directors Courses throughout the world.
Dr. Straatsma held the position of Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Ophthalmology (1983 – 2002) at a time when revitalization was needed. He implemented substantial editorial innovations, strengthened the peer review process, enhanced the aesthetics of the print journal and introduced the AJO website (www.ajo.com). With online full text articles, “Authors Interactive” and electronic “Virtual Meetings”, he positioned the AJO in the digital age and offered features for the national and international readership.
Dr. Straatsma's leadership and creative capacity have improved and stimulated every organization he has touched. His leadership has been characterized by reorganization and improvement just as his career has been distinguished by prompt elevation to top leadership positions in each entity. After periods in elected office or towards the end of an appointed leadership position, he has both sought and facilitated his successor and assured careful yet prompt transition to succeeding leadership with thoughtful dignity.
The breadth and depth of Dr. Straatsma's impact on American and world ophthalmology clearly place him as one of the most qualified to be part of the Living Legends Series of Indian Journal of Ophthalmology. We hope that the young and potential leaders of Indian Ophthalmology would keenly study Prof. Straatsma's life and times and try to emulate his gentle, dignified and very effective leadership style, where work speaks for itself.