Department History


Founded in 1908, the Department of Ophthalmology was initially referred to as a subspecialty within Indiana University School of Medicine. The goal of this department was to “give the essential points necessary for the general practitioner and not in any sense to give a special training.” Senior medical students were taught through didactic course work designed to teach students the anatomy and physiology of the eye, and also through clinical courses at City Hospital, now Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Health. Students would observe surgical procedures conducted by instructors.

Frank A. Morrison, MD, served as the first chairman for the department. A graduate of Indiana Medical School, now IU School of Medicine, Morrison engaged in the private practice of general medicine and then, after a few years, went to New York and Philadelphia to study surgery of the eye, ear, nose and throat (EENT). Upon returning to Indiana, Morrison was a member of the staff of St. Vincent and Robert Long hospitals and was the first director of the eye clinic at Riley Hospital for Children. He assumed the position of chair for the department in 1908 and held it until his death in 1928. Morrison bequeathed his medical library and instruments to the Department of Ophthalmology – a small nucleus of the Frank A. Morrison Ophthalmological Library today.

After Morrison’s death, there was no chairman of the department until 1934, when William F. Hughes, MD, assumed the position on a part-time basis. Hughes, professor of ophthalmology, would visit the department several times per week to conduct the chairman’s business. He was succeeded by Robert J. Masters, MD, in 1943 who also held the position on a part-time basis. Between the years of 1943–1954, the department trained 22 residents.

In 1954, Fred M. Wilson Sr., MD, took the helm as the first full-time chairman for the department and remained in position until 1979. Under his leadership, the department saw tremendous growth and change within its curriculum. Wilson managed to expand the physical facilities and introduced the compartmentalization of the department into the ophthalmic subspecialties and appointed to these areas ambitious, well-trained, young ophthalmologists. As their duties and responsibilities began to expand, so did the department’s residency program, becoming a nationally known entity and sought-after program. The chiefs of the various subspecialty services, through their diligent work and contributions to the literature, helped the department grow in stature. Several of these individuals still serve as the emeritus faculty today.

Beginning in 1979, there was a period of transition when J. Terry Ernest, MD, PhD, was appointed chairman. He left the position in 1981. Eugene M. Helveston, MD, was appointed to the position and stayed three years. Merrill Grayson, MD, was active chairman on three separate occasions. During this time, several of the full-time faculty left the department to enter private practice; however, the Department of Ophthalmology worked to keep the residency program intact and active with the help of loyal, visiting faculty. The number of residency applications began to increase significantly.

Though the Wilson era put the department in the running as one of the finest clinical residencies in the country, research efforts were minimal. During this period, the faculty engaged in writing textbooks and clinical papers, contributing much to the world literature, and taught with vigor.

Under the leadership of Robert D. Yee, MD, the Department of Ophthalmology began to further expand its efforts in 1989. The faculty had an outstanding record in the teaching of medical students and preparing residents in medical ophthalmology and in the most recent surgical techniques. Through its research efforts, the department contributed to the restoration of sight and the prevention of blindness in children and adults across the state of Indiana.

In addition to full-time and part-time faculty, a substantial group of ophthalmologists volunteer their services to teaching residents the nuances of ophthalmic surgery. These individuals are devoted practitioners who serve the community in private practices with offices throughout the community at-large. The department expanded physically from a small, two-room clinic to a well-equipped large clinic with three locations: the Richard L. Roudebusch VA Medical Center, City Hospital (now Eskenazi Health) and Riley Hospital for Children. Each of these facilities is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment.

Since its inception in 1908, the IU School of Medicine Department of Ophthalmology has trained more than 500 residents and fellows. The department is now under the leadership of David Wallace, MD, MPH. Thanks to the generosity and philanthropic support of Eugene and Marilyn Glick, the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute opened its doors in 2009 and is now home to the IU School of Medicine Department of Ophthalmology.