Dr. Victor T. Curtin, Renowned Ophthalmologist and Bascom Palmer Professor for 57 Years, Passes Away

Victor T. Curtin, M.D., professor emeritus of ophthalmology at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, passed away Wednesday, March 9, in Miami. Admired throughout the world, Curtin was the first faculty member recruited to Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, where he served on its faculty for 57 years.

The son of Dr. and Mrs. Victor A. Curtin, Curtin was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1925. A graduate of the Phillips Academy Andover, Curtin received an undergraduate degree from Harvard College and was then stationed in Japan with the United States Army Medical Corps. Following his service, he received dental and medical degrees from Harvard Medical School. He interned at the San Francisco County Hospital and in 1958 completed a residency in ophthalmology at Cornell University Medical College, where he met Edward W.D. Norton, M.D., and developed an interest in retinal diseases and ophthalmic pathology.

In 1959, following a fellowship in ocular pathology and retinal disease at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, and a fellowship in ophthalmic pathology at the National Institutes of Health and the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Curtin became the first faculty member to be recruited by Norton, who was the chief of the University of Miami School of Medicine’s new Division of Ophthalmology. Together, Curtin and Norton would transform that small division into the world-renowned Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.

“From the first moment I met Dr. Curtin in 1979 during my interview for Bascom Palmer’s residency program, he became a role model and mentor, “said Eduardo C. Alfonso, M.D., Chairman of Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. “Known for his honesty and integrity, Dr. Curtin always led by example. I, and all of my colleagues, will forever be indebted to him not only for the opportunity to train with him, but also for his warmth and good judgment.”

“Dr. Curtin was the consummate teacher, physician and clinician-scientist. He was always at Dr. Norton’s side providing sage advice for every important decision,” said John G. Clarkson, M.D., Executive Director of the American Board of Ophthalmology, former Chair of Bascom Palmer and Dean Emeritus of the Miller School of Medicine. “No one cared more for the Bascom Palmer residents, fellows and staff, nor did more to help all succeed. He will be sorely missed and cannot be replaced.”

Curtin recognized that both corneal transplantation and ophthalmic pathology, the understanding of ophthalmic disease at the tissue level, would be integral to patient care, as well as to the proper education of ophthalmologists. In partnership with the Lions Clubs of South Florida, he established the Florida Lions Eye Bank and Ocular Pathology Laboratory at Bascom Palmer in 1962 and guided its growth for nearly 40 years. Today, the eye bank provides corneal tissue for transplantation throughout Central and South Florida, while the pathology laboratory is one of less than 10 specialty specific eye pathology laboratories in the United States.

An outstanding educator, Curtin was dedicated to teaching the next generation of ophthalmologists. As director of Bascom Palmer’s residency program and chairman of the resident and fellow selection committee from 1959-1996, he interviewed and attracted more than 900 of the brightest young physicians entering the field of ophthalmology, 44 of whom have gone on to lead eye institutes and teaching hospitals around the world.

In 1986, the University of Miami School of Medicine established the Victor T. Curtin Chair in Ophthalmology. Curtin was the inaugural recipient of the chair that supports research in experimental ocular pathology. The chair is now held by Sander R. Dubovy, M.D., medical director of the eye bank and director of the ocular pathology laboratory.

“Dr. Curtin’s foresight in establishing the eye bank and pathology laboratory has been instrumental in enhancing patient care, understanding ophthalmic disease through clinicopathologic correlation, funding research, and serving as the cornerstone of the educational program at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute,” said Dubovy. “Espousing hard work, humility and dedication, Dr. Curtin embodied the concept of putting institution above self. His legacy includes more than 150,000 patients who have benefited from the corneal transplantation and diagnostic ophthalmic pathology services provided by the Florida Lions Eye Bank.”

Curtin is survived by his beloved wife of 63 years, Mary Lou, and four children: Paul Curtin, New York; Jane Curtin, Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y.; Gail Curtin, Miami; and Joy Curtin Tompkins, Fort Lauderdale. He is predeceased by his daughter Anne, and his sister Jane Curtin Halko.

Memorial services will be held June 17, 2016, during Bascom Palmer’s 52nd Annual Residents’ Days.

Donations may be made to the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute for the Dr. Victor T. Curtin Endowed Speakers Series, or to the Florida Lions Eye Bank, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, 900 N.W. 17th Street, Miami, Fla. 33136.

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