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Obituary: Dr. Robert McFadzean

Selhorst, John M.D.; Kupersmith, Mark M.D.

Journal of Neuro-Ophthalmology: June 2015 - Volume 35 - Issue 2 - p e10–e11
doi: 10.1097/WNO.0000000000000246

Colleagues and Friends

Corresponding Author: John Selhorst Email:



Robert Malcolm McFadzean, a distinguished Neuro-Ophthalmologist from Glasgow, Scotland, was born in Edinburgh. Following the untimely death of his father in London when he was eight years old, his mother returned to Edinburgh with her two young sons. Subsequently, Robert was enrolled in the prestigious George Heriot’s School, where he excelled. His academic accomplishments continued through the university level to his completion of a medical degree at the University of Edinburgh in 1966. He trained in ophthalmology and neurology in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow, and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1972. His intellectual inquisitiveness steadily drew him toward neuro-ophthalmology during these years, which was greatly fostered by Professor Barry Cullen and later Professor Wallace Foulds. In 1977, he took up a consultant’s post in Glasgow, where he provided a Neuro-Ophthalmology Service to patients in the West of Scotland and beyond at the Institute of Neurological Science, Southern General Hospital. In addition he provided neuro-ophthalmology and general ophthalmology clinical services at the Glasgow Eye Infirmary and Gartnavel General Hospital. As an Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer in Ophthalmology at the University of Glasgow, he was involved in post-graduate training in neuro-ophthalmology along with participation in undergraduate training in General Ophthalmology. In 1989, he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists.

Robert’s work in Glasgow led to many publications in the field of Neuro-Ophthalmology with some notable contributions. For example, our understanding of the topographical organization of the visual field representation in the occipital lobe was brought into modern context by his careful analysis. In a comparison study, he showed that non-invasive computed tomography angiography rather than arterial angiography was sufficient to evaluate third nerve palsies for compression by an aneurysm. He had a special interest in pituitary apoplexy and carefully documented the outcomes for the treatment of pituitary adenomas and carotid cavernous fistulas.

In Scotland, Robert chaired the Dr William McKenzie Commemoration Fund and organized the annual meeting in the founder’s memory, this being the major academic event in the Scottish ophthalmic calendar. He also helped to found the British Isles Neuro-Ophthalmology Club in 1984 and participated in the annual meetings. In the mid 1980’s, he attended his first meetings of the International Neuro-Ophthalmology Society (INOS).

In 1990, Robert crossed the Atlantic for the day and a half meeting of the Frank Walsh Society. With his affable manner, distinctive brogue and ready smile, the lively Scot met easily and was soon conversant with many of its members. Encouraged, he attended his first North American Neuro-Ophthalmology Society (NANOS) meeting in 1991. At ease with colleagues from all cultures and nationalities, Robert became the first chair of NANOS’s International Committee in 1998 and expanded his contacts with many colleagues from around the world. His academic and organizational insights were highly regarded as he sought to raise the quality of scientific, medical and educational projects and forums in which he became engaged.

In 2005, Robert became the first president of the European Neuro-Ophthalmology Society (EUNOS), a position which he held with great pride and commitment for 6 years until 2011. As well as participating in annual meetings, he was responsible for formalizing EUNOS by promoting a constitution for the society. During his presidency, he collaborated closely with his Romanian colleagues to help lay the foundations of modern Romanian neuro-ophthalmology. Throughout these years, Robert continued to attend NANOS meetings until his retirement in 2007.

Unfortunately, he soon developed multiple myeloma, which he fought valiantly, maintaining his positive outlook and dignity. His health prevented from further attendance at NANOS but he attended what would be his last EUNOS Update Meeting in Budapest in 2012.

In our estimation two of his biggest disappointments were his forced retirement from the National Health Service simply due to age, and his illness, which stopped him from attending NANOS meetings and continuing further interactions with his colleagues. He felt his career had more to give. We all knew he had incredible clinical expertise, a vast amount of knowledge, and the desire to share it with patients and colleagues. He was filled with ideas to improve EUNOS and perform clinical research. His battle ended with his passing on January 11, 2015. He was 72 years old. Not surprisingly, news of his death brought condolences from Argentina, Russia, Turkey, Israel, Japan and throughout America and Europe.

Neuro-ophthalmology has lost a wonderful colleague and friend. Bob, as he was known to many in NANOS, was a true Scotsman and gentleman. He wore a kilt on occasion and sampled Scottish whiskeys with the best of them and he frequently exercised his wicked sense of humor. In more formal settings, he noted how “horrified” he was with our American habit of carrying cups of coffee or soda cans instead of sitting down and properly consuming them. However, most cherished by him, were the benefits of the intellectual exchanges and the camaraderie of medicine and science of specialties like neuro-ophthalmology.

Robert is survived by his lovely wife and staunch supporter, Rae, and three children Louise, Peter, Paul and a brother, John. NANOS and EUNOS will miss our dear friend, and Scotland will deeply mourn the loss of one of its very patriotic citizens.

© 2015 by North American Neuro-Ophthalmology Society