William Harbour, M.D., Awarded Endowed Chair at Bascom Palmer

With nearly two decades separating their training at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, renowned ophthalmologists Mark J. Daily, M.D., and J. William Harbour, M.D., had not met before this week, when their mutual regard for the nation’s No. 1 eye institute and shared vision for pioneering research and patient care brought them together.

A 1970s graduate of Bascom Palmer’s residency and fellowship programs, Daily is on the faculty of Loyola University’s medical school in Illinois, where he also established his successful vitreoretinal practice at Wheaton Eye Clinic in 1978. But on April 22, he returned to Bascom Palmer to dedicate the Mark J. Daily, M.D., Endowed Chair to Harbour, who joined the Miller School faculty last year as professor of ophthalmology, Vice Chairman for Translational Research at Bascom Palmer, and a member of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Daily said he was moved to do so out of appreciation for the gift Bascom Palmer had given him – the outstanding mentors and training that enabled his career – and to help ensure the institute continues its long and crucial tradition of groundbreaking discovery that has saved or restored the sight of countless people around the world. Though he had not met Harbour before, he said he knew upon learning of Harbour’s commitment to patient care and transformational research that he would be the ideal recipient.

“They say that a good doctor can do a very good job in taking care of eyes but an excellent doctor takes care of patients, and that’s what I think I learned here at Bascom Palmer,” said Daily, who is credited with recognizing and naming torpedo maculopathy, a torpedo-shaped lesion of the temporal macula. “I am privileged to give a gift that will help people to someone like Bill Harbour who will continue that tradition.”

A retinal surgeon and ocular oncologist whose genetic discoveries are transforming the diagnosis and treatment of the most common eye cancer, Harbour completed his fellowship in vitreoretinal diseases and surgery at Bascom Palmer in 1995. After three other fellowships – including one at the NIH while he was a medical student at Johns Hopkins University – he founded the Ocular Oncology Service at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. It was there in 2004 that he developed the first and only validated prognostic test for uveal melanoma. The test, which accurately distinguishes which uveal tumors will spread and ultimately prove fatal — which about 40 percent are — is an invaluable tool in guiding clinical treatment.

“His remarkable achievements in the clinic and the lab are opening doors to truly individualized care for patients with eye and other types of cancer,’’ said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean, in accepting the chair for the Miller School at a morning ceremony in Bascom Palmer’s Jose Berrocal Auditorium. “It is an honor to be here today for his appointment as the inaugural recipient of the Mark. J. Daily, M.D., Endowed Chair at Bascom Palmer.”

Noting that the chair dedication was special because both the donor and recipient are alumni, UM President Donna E. Shalala thanked Daily for his remarkable vision and generosity. “Alumni support is very vital,’’ she said. “It is a powerful endorsement of our mission as educators and the quality of the University.”

Bascom Palmer Director Eduardo C. Alfonso, M.D., who called Daily’s gift “transformational,” attempted to condense Harbour’s impressive resume to just a few pages, but admitted that was an impossible task. Among the highlights, he noted, is that Harbour received the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology’s prestigious Cogan Award for young researchers in 2005.

Taking the podium, Harbour said he was as excited by the opportunity to return to Bascom Palmer, where he is deeply involved in building connections to Sylvester, as he is humbled to be the inaugural holder of the Daily chair. He said the gift, which is part of Momentum2: The Breakthrough Campaign for The University of Miami, would enable him and his team to expand the genomic approach they applied to uveal melanoma to a much broader range of ophthalmic diseases and ocular tumors, and to train the next generation of researchers and clinicians.

“In this time of increasing economic challenges it becomes more and more difficult to not only perform research, but to train the next generation,” Harbour said. “This gift from Dr. Daily really will allow us to expand beyond what would be possible under the usual grant-funding mechanisms, which is slow and challenging. This type of gift allows us to move quickly in new innovative areas of training and research.”

Addressing Daily, Harbour also made a solemn pledge: “It is my personal challenge to live up to your expectations for this gift, and I look forward to sharing with you over time how we are putting that gift to good use.”

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