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  • Machemer, Robert

    A black and white photograph of a man in a lab coat using a small medical tool. He is a middle aged white man with dark hair and long sideburns, and he wears a white labcoat and a dark tie. He is using either a small black syringe or a small black pair of surgical scissors.Robert Machemer, MD (1933-2009) earned his medical degree in 1959 from the University of Freiburg, Germany. In 1966 Dr. Machemer joined the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, FL as a Research Fellow. After one year, he was made a full-time faculty member. Dr. Machemer was recruited in 1978 to the Department of Ophthalmology at Duke University where he served as its Chairman until 1991. He retired as a Professor of Ophthalmology at Duke University in 1998.

    During his professional career Dr. Machemer focused on retinal detachment and proliferative vitreoretinal diseases. His work led to innovations in surgical technique and instrumentation. He was the first to establish an experimental model of retinal detachment. He used this model to analyze a major complication called proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR). His work in this area is the basis of understanding of the disease today.

    A small surgical tool made of plastic and metal. The tool is shaped like a large plastic syringe with a long metal needle sticking out of one end, and black mechanical parts can be seen through the clear syringe body.Dr. Machemer is best known for his development of the pars plana vitrectomy (1970). For this procedure, he created the vitreous infusion suction cutter (VISC) to remove diseased vitreous and intraocular scar tissue from the eye. His techniques are now the most commonly performed procedure in vitreoretinal surgery.

    Dr. Machemer's creative work and leadership in vitreoretinal surgery was recognized throughout the world with a long list of professional awards and special recognitions including the 2003 American Academy of Ophthalmology Laureate Award, membership in the Jules Gonin Club, the G.B. Bietti Award Medal and more.

    In 2009 Dr. Machemer sat down to talk about his life and career in for the Museum of the Eye® Oral History Project. Click here to download the PDF