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About the Academy
Charles L. Schepens MD

The AmericanAcademy of Ophthalmology takes special pride in honoring Charles L Schepens MD as an inaugural recipient of the Laureate Recognition Award at its 107th Annual Meeting.

Recognized as the "father of modern retinal surgery" by many, Charles L. Schepens MD has combined several full-time careers. He is a practicing physician and retinal surgeon, a teacher of many of the world's retina specialists, a clinical investigator, a surgical innovator. and the author of over 340 medical papers and 4 books.  

The current practice of ophthalmology owes a great deal to the brilliance and energy of Charles Schepens. He was one of a handful of ophthalmologists who recognized many years ago that progress in clinical practice must come through the joining together of basic, applied, and clinical eye research. He promoted the concept of the "marriage" of eye research and ophthalmic practice.  

Born in Belgium in 1912, Charles Schepens studied mathematics before turning to medicine. His interest in mathematics led to subsequent interest in ophthalmic instrumentation. Dr. Schepens received his medical degree in 1935, and after graduate research work, he trained in eye diseases at MoorfieldsEyeHospital.

When Belgium was invaded in 1940, Dr. Schepens became a medical officer in the Belgian Air Force. After his country fell to the Germans, he escaped to France to become a distinguished leader in the French Resistance. He was captured twice by the Gestapo, but survived to emigrate to the U.S. in 1947. 

After the war, Dr. Schepens resumed his career in ophthalmology at Moorfields. He came to the United States in 1947 as a fellow in ophthalmic research at the Howe Laboratory of Ophthalmology, HarvardMedicalSchool. In 1949 he established and became the first director of the Retina Service at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, the first such service of its kind.  

In 1950 Dr. Schepens established what he first envisioned as a center for the intensive investigation of retinal detachment and allied conditions. He called this new research laboratory the Retina Foundation, and in 1974 it was renamed the Eye Research Institute of Retina Foundation to more accurately describe the variety of eye research under way in the laboratories. It is now known as the Harvard-affiliated Schepens Eye Research Institute.  It is the largest independent eye research organization in the U.S., a living legacy to the basic biomedical and clinical eye research Schepens thought so important.  He invented the indirect binocular ophthalmoscope, which is now routinely used to view the retina. His devices and surgical techniques such as scleral buckling have been credited with raising the success rate of retinal reattachment surgery from 40% to 90%. 

Dr. Schepens received an award at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) in 1999.  He was selected as one of The Ten Most Influential Ophthalmologists of the Twentieth Century. The physicians selected for this honor were chosen by their peers?€“33,000 ophthalmologists in the U.S. and abroad?€“in two rounds of voting. The ophthalmologists were chosen for the innovations and inventions they had made which contributed to the transformation of ophthalmology to its present standard. 

Dr. Schepens has always maintained a firm commitment to education and has made every effort to give the profession the benefit of his vast experience. He has trained over 170 vitreoretinal surgeons and given countless lectures and courses.  

Dr. Schepens was honored at the 2003 Annual Meeting for his distinguished career and contributions to ophthalmology. It is with great pleasure that the Academy welcomed Dr. Charles Schepens as a 2003 Academy Laureate.