City of Miami Declares ‘Dr. Alana Grajewski Day’

Alana Grajewski, M.D., a transformative pediatric glaucoma specialist with Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and UHealth, was recognized on June 23 by Miami Mayor Tomas P. Regalado and the City Commission for her innovative work in treating and preventing glaucoma in children throughout the world. For her dedication and service, the City of Miami declared June 23, 2016, “Dr. Alana Grajewski Day.”

“It’s important to recognize those who every single day work in silence and do the right things for the community,” said Regalado, who considers Bascom Palmer “one of the jewels of Miami.”
Grajewski, founder and Director of the new Samuel and Ethel Balkan International Pediatric Glaucoma Center at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, has led a decades-long international effort to eradicate pediatric glaucoma. She said she was humbled to receive the city’s honor and gave credit to the team that has helped in her journey to treat patients.

The Balkan Center, which is scheduled to open later this year, will offer genetic research and a multidisciplinary approach to diagnosing and treating pediatric glaucoma. The center, the first of its kind in the world, will also train doctors from the U.S. and around the world to accurately diagnose and treat pediatric glaucoma. The Balkan Center was made possible by a generous donation from Donna Mae Balkan Litowitz in memory of her parents.

Glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness in the United States, is often overlooked in children because it is perceived as a condition that affects the elderly, Grajewski said in her remarks at the commission meeting. Although it is more common in older people, primary infantile glaucoma occurs in about 1 in 25,000 babies born in the United States. Approximately 80 to 90 percent of babies who receive prompt surgical treatment will do well, and may have normal or nearly normal vision for their lifetime. Most babies who have glaucoma and do not get appropriate care quickly will lose their vision. With pediatric glaucoma, early detection and treatment can mean the difference between sight and blindness.

“I feel that it’s not so much me who’s being honored here but the team I work with,” said Grajewski, adding that Bascom Palmer has been a beacon for children with blinding eye conditions throughout the Americas and elsewhere. “It has been my privilege to work among the best and brightest at Bascom Palmer. All of my success comes from the garden that I was grown in and from the generosity of others.”

This was the case for 12-year-old Marcelo Varela, who shared his story during Grajewski’s recognition. Grajewski diagnosed him with glaucoma at just nine days old and has treated him ever since.

“Dr. Grajewski has known me all my life,” said Varela. “She saved my life when I needed it the most.”

“We are delighted that Bascom Palmer is recognized for its unique and outstanding pediatric glaucoma team,” said Eduardo C. Alfonso, M.D., the Kathleen and Stanley J. Glaser Chair in Ophthalmology and Chairman of Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. “The new pediatric glaucoma center will serve our youngest patients by incorporating the cornerstones of Bascom Palmer’s work, which are clinical care, vision research and education.”

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