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  • The American Academy of Ophthalmology gratefully acknowledges a $1 million donation from Dr. Charles R. and Judith G. Munnerlyn. This exemplary gift will be used in the Academy’s efforts to advance laser surgery education for ophthalmologists around the world.

    One of the largest individual donations in the Academy’s history, the gift will establish the Dr. Charles R. and Judith G. Munnerlyn Laser Surgery Education Center and the Munnerlyn Endowment Fund that will be used to maintain it.

    “The American Academy of Ophthalmology plays a critical, global role in the advancement of ophthalmic knowledge. This gift to the Academy supports our personal and lifelong commitment to improve the quality of life for people who suffer from visual impairment,” said Dr. Munnerlyn.

    Charles R. Munnerlyn, PhD, is recognized as a pioneer in translating laser science into ophthalmic applications. His long and inspiring career is distinguished by the 40 patents he holds in the field of optical engineering and for his 1984 creation of the Munnerlyn Formula, which dictates the amount of corneal tissue to be removed by an excimer laser for refractive surgery.

    While these are remarkable achievements alone, Dr. Munnerlyn is also responsible for numerous inventions that have transformed the way ophthalmologists treat patients, resulting in an improved quality of life for millions. Dr. Munnerlyn developed his first ophthalmic product, an autorefractor called the Dioptron, while at Tropel, Inc. near Rochester, NY, in the early 1970s. 

    After that success, he moved the family out west to Coherent, Inc., where in 1977, he created the Permitron used to diagnose glaucoma. That instrument was followed by the Digiton tonometer in 1978, which he designed with Terry Clapham, an electrical engineer who became Dr. Munnerlyn’s partner and collaborator. The pair developed the pulse YAG laser in 1983, and Mrs. Munnerlyn joined in the endeavor by providing administrative support. Dr. Munnerlyn and Mr. Clapham went on to design their first excimer laser in 1985 and later co-founded VIS X Incorporated (now Abbott Medical Optics) in 1987. Their hard work paid off in 1995 when the FDA approved the excimer laser for therapeutic applications, with approval for vision correction following in 1996. For many years to follow, the longtime partners continued to improve the laser – which Dr. Munnerlyn names as his proudest achievement – by adding precision-enhancing features such as automatic eye tracking. 

    The Munnerlyns’ legacy of generosity, leadership and vision will help transform ophthalmic education worldwide for generations to come. The establishment of the Dr. Charles R. and Judith G. Munnerlyn Laser Surgery Education Center will create a critical link between research and existing knowledge and the practitioners who apply it – all to the benefit of patients.

    The Munnerlyn Center’s programs will be housed within the Academy’s Ophthalmic News and Education (ONE®) Network. Funded by the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, this global learning portal makes clinically relevant educational content available to nearly all ophthalmologists in the United States and to ophthalmologists in more than 140 countries around the world.

    The goals of the web-based Munnerlyn Center are to:

    • Provide ophthalmologists with a central location for the most up-to-date and accurate information on advances in ophthalmic laser surgery; 
    • Serve as a virtual skills transfer center that ophthalmologists can access anytime and anywhere; and 
    • Focus on providing educational resources in basic science principles, advances in laser surgery technology, systems-based patient safety programs, and pre- and postoperative care and management.

    The Munnerlyn Center will provide valuable skills transfer training for all stages of practice. Resident and fellows, as well as midcareer ophthalmologists seeking to acquire new skills, will be able to learn about basic principles, procedure selection, pre- and post-op management, complications management, and many other topics. In its first year of operation, the Center seeks to produce 20 videos, 10 animations and two simulations. These valuable educational resources will benefit ophthalmologists worldwide, resulting in improved outcomes for laser surgery patients.

    “The profession of ophthalmology will benefit significantly by the generosity of Charles and Judith Munnerlyn in providing the funding to advance laser science within eye care. The knowledge that will be created from these funds, combined with the technology to dispense it to ophthalmologists around the world, will have a direct and immediate impact on the quality of care received by patients on a global basis,” said David W. Parke II, MD CEO, American Academy of Ophthalmology.