James E. Standefer, MD, is an Adjunct Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Minnesota. He attended Harvard College and Cornell Medical School in NYC. He served 4 years as a US Navy Flight Surgeon for a test-pilot squadron in the Mohave Desert. His ophthalmology residency was at Washington University in St. Louis. Professor Bernard Becker, MD, became his mentor and contributed to Dr. Standefer's strong interest in glaucoma.
In 1995, after 25 years in private practice in Stillwater, MN, he left to serve as a full-time international volunteer. He used the AAO International Registry to find opportunities.
Dr. Standefer has been a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) for 45 years. He has promoted international volunteerism in courses and at Breakfast with the Experts. He also served 8 years as the Chairman of the AAO International Educational Development Committee that initiated the popular International Forum.
He traveled widely performing cataract surgery in more than 15 locations, especially in Central America and the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. He also worked for extended periods of time as a clinical and surgical ophthalmologist in several locations, especially at Mercy Hospital in Nigeria. The hospital is supported by FOCUS, a Chicago-based NGO.
Dr. Standefer’s most notable contributions as a volunteer, however, have been as a teacher of glaucoma in developing countries. He had become aware of a significant knowledge gap for the proper diagnosis and treatment of the glaucomas in many countries. He designed and taught 2-week glaucoma workshops that are still being held in the training centers of developing countries.
Using the “Trainer of Trainers” principle, each workshop is attended by 5 post-residency ophthalmologists from 5 different training centers. During the past 15 years, the workshop has been conducted 42 times in 36 major ophthalmic training centers of 31 developing countries. Early on, he hand-carried a portable operating microscope and a diode laser, which were loaned by generous equipment companies. All of his service in developing countries has been on a volunteer basis and self-funded unless invited and sponsored by a US NGO.
Dr. Standefer is an intrepid traveler. He states that he has always been treated kindly by helpful strangers, even during his brief stay in a Nigerian jail. During his time in Albania, he witnessed a 2-day civil war from his hotel room window.
Dr. Standefer has been recognized for his many contributions to international service in ophthalmology, including the Outstanding Humanitarian Service Award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO); The Outstanding Service Award, from the Vision Foundation, University of Minnesota; The International Public Service Award of the Foundation of the AAO; The Distinguished Alumni Award and Visiting Professor, Washington University Eye Alumni Association; and The Presidential Award of the Ophthalmology Society of Nigeria. He has been an invited speaker at numerous international meetings, including a WHO Regional Workshop in Cairo, Egypt.