Nine Trailblazers Who Championed Ophthalmology’s Independence in Medicine


The founding Directors of the American Board of Ophthalmology included some of the most prominent ophthalmologists of the day. Directors, who believed in setting high standards for the protection of the profession and the public, represented each of the three founding organizations: the American Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology, the American Ophthalmological Society, and the Section on Ophthalmology of the American Medical Association. The nine original directors of the Board were:

1. Edward Jackson, M.D. (Board Service: 1915-1925)

The Board’s most well-known founding director was Dr. Edward Jackson, whose legacy in ophthalmology continues to be honored with the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s annual Jackson Memorial Lecture. Dr. Jackson practiced ophthalmology first in Philadelphia and later in Denver, where he was appointed professor of ophthalmology at the University of Colorado Medical School. In addition to serving as the driving force behind the founding of the Board, Dr. Jackson founded the Colorado Ophthalmological Society and launched the nation’s first postgraduate course in ophthalmology. An author, journal editor, and pioneer in refraction, he is credited with popularizing the use of the retinoscope and developing various techniques for examining the eye. Dr. Jackson remained active in ophthalmology throughout his long life. He died in 1942 at the age of 86, just two weeks after having delivered a lecture at an annual meeting of the AAO.

2. Alexander Duane, M.D. (Board Service: 1915-1917)

A celebrated author and ophthalmologist, Dr. Alexander Duane penned more than 70 papers over the course of his career and, in 1890, he supplied the medical terms to Webster’s International Dictionary. Dr. Duane famously translated Austrian ophthalmologist Ernst Fuchs’ ophthalmic textbook in 1903. He is remembered today for his association with several medical eponyms, including Duane’s parallax test, Duane’s retraction syndrome, and Duane’s prism test for latent squint.

3. William H. Wilder, M.D. (Board Service: 1915-1935)

Dr. William H. Wilder, originally from Kentucky, participated in the founding and early development of the Board before becoming the organization’s second Secretary-Treasurer—a position he held from 1918 through 1935. Active in many national societies and organizations in ophthalmology, Dr. Wilder was a Professor of Ophthalmology at Rush Medical College and surgeon-in-chief of ophthalmology at Presbyterian Hospital and Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary.

4. Edward C. Ellett, M.D. (Board Service: 1915-1947)

Memphis native Dr. Edward C. Ellet served as Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine until his resignation in 1922. He then became chief of staff at the Memphis Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital in 1926. In 1939, the Southern Medical Association created Ellett Day in recognition of his many achievements as a citizen, soldier, and physician. Dr. Ellett remained chief of staff until his death in 1947, which occurred while taking a train to the centennial celebration of the American Medical Association.

5. Walter B. Lancaster, M.D. (Board Service: 1915-1943)

Dr. Walter B. Lancaster was a staunch advocate for board certification, encouraging other prominent ophthalmologists in the Board’s early years to become certified. Dr. Lancaster also helped to found the Association for Research in Ophthalmology and the Ophthalmic Study Council now known as the Lancaster Course in Ophthalmology.

6. Frank C. Todd, M.D. (Board Service: 1915-1918)

Before training as both an ophthalmologist and ear, nose, and throat specialist, Frank C. Todd founded a lumber company in Minnesota and briefly practiced as a dentist. At the time of his appointment to the Board, Dr. Todd served as chair of the EENT Department at Minnesota State University. He became the Board’s first Secretary-Treasurer and served for two years. In 1918, during the first World War, Dr. Todd resigned from the Board to join the armed forces as a Colonel. Prior to his overseas deployment, however, he contracted pneumonia while inspecting hospitals for the government and passed away. Dr. Todd is the reason the Board was incorporated (and remains so) under the laws of Minnesota—his residence at the time.

7. Hiram Woods, M.D. (Board Service: 1915-1925)

Dr. Hiram Woods, of Baltimore, graduated Princeton in 1879 as a classmate and friend of President Woodrow Wilson. He later became a faculty member at the University of Maryland and practiced at Presbyterian Eye and Ear Hospital, Union Protestant Infirmary, Hospital for the Women of Maryland, and consulted at both Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital and Washington County Hospital. At the University of Maryland, Dr. Woods was credited with the discovery of the development of amblyopia secondary to quinine poisoning and the blinding effects of methanol poisoning.

8. Myles Standish, M.D. (Board Service: 1915-1922)

A direct descendant of Captain Myles Standish, military leader of the Pilgrims, Boston’s Dr. Myles Standish was a Harvard graduate who performed surgery at Massachusetts Charitable Eye and Ear Infirmary for more than 20 years. As an educator, Dr. Standish taught at both Dartmouth Medical College and Harvard. Dr. Standish participated in many of the early exploratory discussions surrounding the formation of the Board.

9. Wendell Reber, M.D. (Board Service: 1915-1916)

Dr. Wendell Reber was a well-known ophthalmologist practicing in Philadelphia at the time of his appointment to the Board. A graduate of Washington Medical School in St. Louis and Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, Dr. Reber served as a professor at many Philadelphia institutions including Temple University, Samaritan, Philadelphia General, and Philadelphia Polyclinic. His term as a director of the Board was cut short when, following the administration of the Board’s first examination in Memphis, Tennessee in December 1916, Dr. Reber developed pneumonia and died just 16 days later.

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