Vision Advances at Montefiore & Einstein: The 27th Annual Paul Henkind Day

On June 11, ophthalmology faculty, residents, students, and staff from across Einstein and Montefiore gathered virtually to mark the 27th Paul Henkind Day, the department of ophthalmology & visual sciences’ annual research symposium and awards celebration. Hosted by Roy Chuck, M.D., Ph.D., professor and university chair of ophthalmology & visual sciences and the Paul Henkind Chair in Ophthalmology, the event featured a keynote address from nationally recognized ophthalmologist Alfred Sommer, M.D., professor of ophthalmology and dean emeritus of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and an address by Jennifer Henkind, M.D., partner at Stamford Pediatric Associates in Stamford, CT, and daughter of the occasion’s namesake.

Roy S. Chuck, M.D., Ph.D.

Roy S. Chuck, M.D., Ph.D.

“Today is about returning closer to normal after this difficult pandemic year,” said Dr. Chuck, who was recently named editor in chief at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology’s journal Translational Vision Science & Technology. “It ’s been surreal, but we stayed strong clinically, in research and in education.” Of note, he said, was external recognition of two department members: Wei Liu, Ph.D., won a grant from the National Eye Institute’s 3-D Retina Organoid Challenge, and Jamie Rosenberg, M.D., associate professor of ophthalmology & visual sciences and of pediatrics and residency program director at Einstein and Montefiore, was named Medical Student Educator of the Year by the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.

Dr. Chuck also noted that the department ’s multiple centers for patient care, its clinical training programs, and the Center for Ophthalmic Innovation ’s Ronald M. Burde Surgical Teaching Laboratory continued to operate during the pandemic. (Ronald Burde, M.D., chaired the department of ophthalmology for 12 years in the 1980s and 1990s.)

Jamie B. Rosenberg, M.D.

Jamie B. Rosenberg, M.D.

The year’s success was also apparent from the conference’s 15 research presentations, which included intriguing case studies and several population-based studies, as well as translational research and the evaluation of a new curriculum. Some highlights included: “A Differential Loss of Nerve Fiber Layer Thickness and Retinal Ganglion Cell Complex in Toxic and Nutritional Optic Neuropathy,” presented by Aishwarya Sriram, M.D., a third-year resident at Montefiore, who discussed how evaluating retinal ganglion cell layer thinning may identify optic neuropathy before it is evident with optical coherence tomography; and Sally Park, M.D. ’21, who delivered a talk titled “A Systematic Analysis of the Impact of an Ambulatory Ophthalmology Urgent Care Clinic,” in which she detailed the value of same-day ophthalmology triage clinics in providing convenient, cost-efficient patient care and improving quality, outcome, and satisfaction.

The day featured an awards ceremony to honor department member accomplishments:

  • The Ronald M. Burde Research Award was presented to Aazim Siddiqui, M.D., a third-year ophthalmology resident whose research concluded that autorefraction can allow collection of “big data” that help optimize intraocular lens formulas.
  • The Davidoff Society gave this year’s Housestaff Excellence in Teaching award to Anthony Marte, M.D., a first-year ophthalmology resident, who also presented on treating high astigmatism with limbal relaxing incisions.
  • The Outstanding Housestaff Award went to Nilesh Raval, M.D., a second-year ophthalmology resident who presented on his assessment of three commercially available continuous curvilinear capsulorhexis simulators, which are used in cataract surgery.
Aazim Siddiqui, M.D., (center) was presented with the Ronald M. Burde Research Award
Aazim Siddiqui, M.D., (center) was presented with the Ronald M. Burde Research Award

The prominent and widely published Dr. Sommer capped off the day with the George N. Wise memorial lecture. His talk, titled “A Peripatetic Ophthalmologist,” focused on his life-long skepticism and consistent, regular challenges to existing medical knowledge. Amidst doubters, he championed predicting nerve fiber layer defects using retinal imaging. To prevent blindness, he administered vitamin A to Indonesian children orally rather than via the normal intramuscular route to increase its effectiveness. And in 1985, he questioned the mandate of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) that every adult deserved a yearly eye examination.

“There weren’t enough ophthalmologists in the U.S. to do that,” he said. “For my pains I was made chair of the quality of care committee.” From that platform he led the development of the AAO’s Preferred Practice Pattern® guidelines, which took medical and economic implications into account. The guidelines were adopted into practice and became the foundation of the AAO guidelines still in use today. Dr. Sommer concluded his talk with a statement that came as no surprise: “Bottom line: Question everything, especially accepted wisdom.”

Nilesh Raval, M.D., (center) received the Outstanding Housestaff Award
Nilesh Raval, M.D., (center) received the Outstanding Housestaff Award

About the Day’s Namesake

The day was held in honor of Paul Henkind, M.D., a renowned ophthalmologist and the Frances DeJur Professor of Ophthalmology at Einstein in the 1960s. When Einstein and Montefiore combined their ophthalmology departments in 1969, Dr. Henkind became the first chair of the unified department and was instrumental in enhancing its reputation, particularly in retinal vascular and degenerative diseases.

In her talk “Who in the World Is Paul Henkind Anyway?,” Dr. Jennifer Henkind gave a more personal view. “He demanded full attention and full respect,” she said. “He was a taskmaster who expected excellence.” Students, interns, and residents quaked in his presence but learned what they needed to know, and his patients adored him. “Ophthalmology was truly his life,” she said. “I ’d hear him typing at night, writing chapters, working on books. He never watched TV. It was eat, sleep, ophthalmology.” A little-known fact is that their home was filled with visual delights: He bought sculptures and paintings that he fancied and was a prolific photographer. He died of a brain tumor in 1986 at age 53. Paul Henkind Day is a small way to uphold the memory of a man whose role at Einstein and Montefiore was large.

Anthony Marte, M.D., received the Davidoff Society Award for Housestaff Excellence in Teaching
Anthony Marte, M.D., received the Davidoff Society Award for Housestaff Excellence in Teaching

Paul Henkind Day was a Continuing Medical Education activity designed to inform practicing ophthalmologists of current results of clinical trials applicable to their practices in evaluating and managing common ocular diseases. Course directors were: Dr. Rosenberg; Jeffrey Schultz, M.D., associate professor of ophthalmology & visual sciences, vice chair for clinical practice, and director of the glaucoma division at Einstein and Montefiore; and Anurag Shrivastava, M.D., associate professor of ophthalmology at Einstein and assistant dean for Montefiore Medical Center.

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