Professor John Donald MacIntyre Gass, MD, Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Emeritus, one of the world′s most respected clinicians in the field of retinal, macular and uveal diseases, passed away on Feb. 26, 2005 due to pancreatic carcinoma.
Born in Prince Edward Island, Canada, in 1928, Prof. Gass received both his undergraduate (1950) and medical (1957) degrees from Vanderbilt University where in medical school he was awarded the Founder′s Medal for the highest academic achievement. In 1963, he joined the faculty of the newly formed Bascom Palmer Eye Institute of the University of Miami School of Medicine and pursued an illustrious career spanning more than 3 decades (1963 to 1995). In 1995, after spending so many prolific years at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, Prof. Gass finally retired and returned to Nashville, joining the academic staff of Ophthalmology Department of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. His return to the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville (1995-2005) was soon followed by national and international students, fellows, and visiting ophthalmologists finding their way to his new address.
Prof. Gass was known as a pioneer in modern ophthalmology and was widely recognized as the Father of Macular Diseases in the world. In 1999, he was identified by his peers as one of the top ten most influential ophthalmologists of the 20th century. He was also the recipient of the Mildred Weisenfeld Award for Excellence in Ophthalmology from the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Prof. Gass was the recipient of the Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award at the University of Miami in 1989. Bascom Palmer also honoured Prof. Gass with an endowed chair. His awards included Helen Keller Prize for Vision Research in 2001 and the Laureate Recognition Award of the American Academy of Ophthalmology at its 108th Annual Meeting in the year 2004 at New Orleans, Louisiana. The Macula Society lectureship and medal for his outstanding contribution in macular diseases were established in his honor. Most recently, Vanderbilt University honored Prof. Gass endowing a chair and honor lecture in his name.
Prof. Gass was praised for his many contributions to the practice of ophthalmology. He has influenced ophthalmic thought world wide, if not by his presence as a visitor, then through his scientific publications, his outstanding books, and the international fellows he trained. A prolific writer, Prof. Gass authored several major reference books on macular diseases and intraocular tumors.1 In addition, he authored 12 book chapters and over 270 articles in peer-reviewed journals, many of which are considered landmark contributions.2345
With the demise of Prof. Gass, the world of ophthalmology has lost an extraordinary physician of great talent, commonsense and humility. Prof. Gass′ passing should not be seen as the end of an era but a promise for a generation of young ophthalmologists to become ophthalmic physicians inspired by his example to seek to understand their patients and to unravel the causes of blindness, for which as yet there are no answers.
1. Gass JDM Stereoscopic Atlas of Macular Diseases: Diagnosis and Treatment. 1997;2ed 4 St Louis Moby Inc
2. Gass JD, Norton EW. Cystoid macular edema and papilledema following cataract extraction. A fluorescein fundoscopic and angiographic study Arch Ophthalmol. 1966;76:646–61
3. Gass JD. Acute posterior multifocal placoid pigment epitheliopathy Arch Ophthalmol. 1968;80:177–185
4. Gass JD. Idiopathic senile macular hole. Its early stages and pathogenesis Arch Ophthalmol. 1988;106:629–639
5. Gass JD. Are acute zonal occult outer retinopathy and the white spot syndromes (AZOOR complex) specific autoimmune diseases? Am J Ophthalmol. 2003;135:380–381