The American Academy of Ophthalmology takes special pride in honoring Professor Alan C. Bird, MD, as recipient of the Laureate Recognition Award at its 112th Annual Meeting.
After undergraduate studies at Guys Hospital Medical School, Dr. Bird completed junior posts in general medicine, surgery and neurosurgery. After a residency in ophthalmology at Moorfields Eye Hospital, he worked as senior registrar at the London Hospital and the Hospital for Nervous Diseases, Queen Square. This was followed by a fellowship in neuro-ophthalmology at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute with Lawton Smith, MD, and a brief period with William Hoyt, MD, in San Francisco.
On returning to London in 1969, Dr. Bird was appointed to the Institute of Ophthalmology as lecturer, and subsequently senior lecturer, reader and professor, as well as serving as consultant at Moorfields Eye Hospital. He changed his main interests from neuro-ophthalmology to retina, and he was instrumental in the establishment of a specialized clinical service at the hospital. This was aided by the conversion of clinical activity in Moorfields Eye Hospital to specialized services; the Medical Retinal Service now holds 34 clinics each week and has 12 consultants. Over the years a productive multidisciplinary research team was developed for the investigation of monogenic retinal disorders and age-related macular disease. Investigative techniques included molecular genetics, electrophysiology, psychophysics, specialized imaging and morphology. Establishment of research programs was aided by the successful development of the Institute of Ophthalmology, which became a school of University College, London. Dr. Bird and his colleagues generated research programs in inflammatory eye disease and retinal vascular diseases. Indeed, the institute’s clinical and research activity in medical retinal diseases has attracted many talented post-residency fellows from all over the world, who have added greatly to the research endeavors.
In order to contribute fully to research, Dr. Bird spent a sabbatical period with Dean Bok, MD, at UCLA in 1985. In addition to his work in London, he has also spent time in Africa undertaking research into river blindness. Most notable was the finding that retinal and optic nerve disease was the main cause of blindness, rather than corneal scarring, and that the standard treatment of diethyl carbamizine citrate caused rapid onset of blindness. This led to the institution of ivermectin as the preferred treatment, which has been highly successful. He has also worked in Jamaica recording the retinal changes in sickle cell disease over a 20-year period in a well-studied cohort generated by Graham Serjeant, MD.
Dr. Bird has received a number of awards in recognition of his work. In addition to having worked with the United Kingdom’s Medical Research Council and Wellcome Trust, the U.S. NEI, France’s INSERM and Germany’s Deutsche Forchungsgemeinschaft, Dr. Bird is involved in advising industry from a clinical perspective. He has earned the Duke-Elder, Doyne and Bowman medals in the United Kingdom and the Prix Chauvin in France. He has given numerous eponymous lectures throughout Europe and North America and has received the Alcon Research Award, the Helen Keller Prize, the Kayser Award and the Jules François Medal. In 2006, he was honored by the Macula Society with a lifetime achievement award.
On Oct. 1, 2005, Dr. Bird retired from full-time clinical practice and was appointed emeritus professor at London University and honorary consultant at Moorfields Eye Hospital so that his research and teaching can be continued.
Dr. Bird was honored at the 2008 Joint Meeting for his distinguished career and contributions to ophthalmology. It is with great pleasure that the Academy welcomes him as a 2008 Academy Laureate.