The celebration was twofold for family, friends and colleagues as the UAMS Jones Eye Institute awarded two chairs to a pair of its most highly respected ophthalmologists at a June 4 double investiture ceremony.
Richard Harper, M.D., received the Sally McSpadden Boreham Chair in Ophthalmology, and Paul Phillips, M.D., received the Stella Boyle Smith/Gissur J. Petursson, M.D., Chair in Ophthalmology.
“Hosting a double investiture ceremony is symbolically fitting for us to bestow these honors on two of the Jones Eye Institute’s greatest contributors,” said John Shock, M.D., executive vice chancellor and director of the Harvey and Bernice Jones Eye Institute. “We’re extremely proud to have the longtime commitment of these two men and look forward to their continued leadership and professionalism within the Jones Eye Institute.”
The two doctors have a combined 28 years invested at the UAMS Jones Eye Institute, with Harper joining in 1993 and Phillips in 1997.
Harper’s Sally McSpadden Boreham Chair was established by a gift from Boreham with the goal of supporting research, education and patient care in ophthalmology. Boreham was a silent philanthropist who supported several organizations in addition to the Jones Eye Institute, including hometown institutions like the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith and the First Presbyterian and First Baptist churches there.
“I am humbled and very appreciative to receive this great honor,” Harper said. “This creates several opportunities to broaden many areas I feel strongly about, including virtual reality training applications, telemedicine initiatives and several educational tools we can now look at advancing.”
Before accepting his chair, Harper’s mentor Jeanne K. Heard, M.D., Ph.D., senior vice president for accreditation committees at the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education in Chicago spoke.
“I’ve never come across anyone as committed to excellence and as committed to delivering the highest levels of patient care as Dr. Harper,” Heard said. “I wish I could clone him.”
Harper, a tenured professor of ophthalmology and director of the Low Vision Clinic, received his medical degree from the University of Oklahoma and completed his residency at UAMS. He is nationally renowned for his innovative work in educating residents and has guided the residency program to become one of the most sought after programs in the South. In 2008, Harper became the fourth Lutterloh Professor after being invested with Charles Hartzell Lutterloh and Charles M. Lutterloh Medical Education Excellence Professorship.
Phillips’ Stella Boyle Smith/Gissur J. Petursson, M.D., Chair was established by a gift from Smith to support an ophthalmologist or a basic scientist in reducing vision loss through research, education and patient care in adults and children. She credits her beloved former ophthalmologist Petursson, a retired 26-year veteran of the UAMS staff who now volunteers at the Jones Eye Institute, with “saving her life” by restoring her vision. Smith was also one of the first major donors that helped establish the Arkansas Center for Eye Research.
“I never thought I’d head down the road of pediatric ophthalmology and I never thought I’d be standing up in front of a crowd accepting something like this,” Phillips said. “I’m extremely appreciative to everyone who helped get me here and pledge to make the most of this opportunity.”
Phillips was joined by his mentor and former professor at the University of Florida, David L. Guyton, M.D., director of the Zanvyl Krieger Children’s Eye Center at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
“Paul once said to me that he’d do anything in the world as long as it wasn’t pediatric ophthalmology,” Guyton said. “I don’t know if he could pinpoint when a change in that attitude occurred, but I know there are a lot of satisfied patients and colleagues that are glad he had a change of heart.”
Phillips, a tenured professor of ophthalmology and chief of ophthalmology at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, completed a fellowship in pediatric ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He also completed a fellowship in neuro-ophthalmology at Emory University Eye Center in Atlanta. Phillips is well known for his expertise in treating the tiniest of patients as well as adults with strabismus and neuro-ophthalmological disorders. He’s also recognized for training new generations of pediatric ophthalmologists, as well as his significant contributions to research.