Stanley Marshall Truhlsen, MD, began his career in ophthalmology in 1946 and continues to this day to love our profession and his life of philanthropy. He was born on Nov. 13, 1920, in Herman, Neb., a small village 30 miles north of Omaha with a population of slightly less than 400 people at that time.
During the Depression years, his father had a hardware store. Because the farmers did not have cash, they would barter in the form of dairies products, poultry, eggs and garden produce as payment. When Dr. Truhlsen was 10 years old, a local family practitioner invited him and a close friend of the family to travel to Canada. This physician was highly respected for his extensive and community services, which inspired Dr. Truhlsen with the passion for making medicine as his career.
Stanley M. Truhlsen, MD
In 1937, Dr. Truhlsen graduated from Herman High School at the age of 16. Following the advice of a local banker, his father borrowed money from his insurance policy to pay for his son's college expenses. Dr. Truhlsen ’s cousin had been an all-American tackle on the Nebraska football team; thus Dr. Truhlsen was a “true Cornhuskers’ and only applied to attend the University of Nebraska.
In 1941, Dr. Truhlsen completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. He finished his medical education in an accelerated three-year program at University of Nebraska Medical Center and continued his internship in nine months as well as his nine months residency in Pathology and Bacteriology at Albany Hospital in Albany, N.Y.
Following his residency in Albany, N.Y. in 1946, Dr. Truhlsen entered the army for two years to fulfill his military obligation following his Army Specialized Training Program medical school education. He was assigned as the laboratory officer in the U.S. Air Force in the hospital at Scott Field, Ill. Upon completion of his two-year military service, Dr. Truhlsen received a prestigious three-year residency position in ophthalmology at Washington University/Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, Mo.
The Heed Foundation offered Dr. Truhlsen the Heed fellowship, but he chose not to accept the generous offer because by then he had two children and had some financial concerns. In 1951, Dr. Truhlsen returned to Omaha and joined the private practice of Howard Morrison, MD, who at the time was the associate editor for the TRANSACTIONS of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology.
When Dr. Morrison would leave town on occasion, Dr. Truhlsen helped proofread papers submitted from the meeting even though he had no appointment at TRANSACTIONS. Following these duties, the Academy awarded Dr. Truhlsen the position of the associate editor.
Dr. Truhlsen joined the faculty at the University of Nebraska Medical Center department of ophthalmology in 1951. He was an instructor from 1951-55, associate 1955-60, assistant professor 1960-68, associate professor 1968-74, professor 1974-81 and clinical professor from 1981-93. He became the interim chairman of the department from 1989-1990 and progressed to be an emeritus clinical professor by the time he retired. From the late 19th century through 1981, the entire faculty of the Department of Ophthalmology at UNMC served as volunteers.
In 1960, Dr. Truhlsen was one of the few physicians invited to a dinner at the Hilltop House in Omaha hosted by Warren Buffett. Stan became a member and a partner of Emdee Investment Group, which included 10 doctors and Warren Buffett, who was the general partner. The financial success allowed Dr. Truhlsen to increase his philanthropic efforts in Nebraska, which earned national recognition by the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Dr. Truhlsen became a fellow of the American College of Surgeons in 1953. He was president of the Immanuel Hospital medical staff in Omaha in 1951 and president of the Bishop Clarkson Memorial Hospital medical staff from 1972-74. He also became the founding member and later president of the American Eye Study Club in 1962.
In 1972, he became the editor of the ophthalmology division of Transactions and later became the editor of Ophthalmology, the Academy’s scientific journal from 1975-79. He was editor of Transactions from 1979-84.
Stan served as Academy president in 1983. During his presidential term, two of his greatest achievements were the adoption of the Codes of Ethics, approved by President Ronald Reagan’s administration, and creation of the National Eye Care Project, now EyeCare America, for the indigent patients over 65 years of age. He became president of the American Ophthalmological Society in 1996 and served on the board of directors of the Metropolitan Omaha Medical Society and the Nebraska Medical Association. He also served on the board of directors and as vice chairman of the board of Nebraska Blue Cross/Shield from 1970 to 1993.
Stanley M. Truhlsen Eye Institute, Omaha, NE
In 1985, Aksarben Foundation, a philanthropic non-profit organization in Nebraska, chose Dr. Truhlsen as King of Quivira XCI, which includes yearly coronation balls and parades to honor the outstanding philanthropist each year.
In 1993, Dr. Truhlsen retired from private practice. The American Ophthalmological Society awarded him the prestigious Lucien Howe Medal in 2001. The Academy chose Dr. Truhlsen as chairman of the Academy Archives Committee in 2001-10 and Senior Ophthalmologist Committee in 2002-06. In 2009, he became the first recipient of the Academy’s EnergEyes Award presented by the Young Ophthalmologist Committee. He received the Humanitarian Award in 2012 from Inclusive Communities and Philanthropist of the Year in 2013 from the Association Fundraising Professionals.
Dr. Truhlsen is an emeritus professor and still actively involved with University of Nebraska School of Medicine and department of ophthalmology. In 2010, Chancellor Hal Maurer encouraged Dr. Truhlsen to start planning the Stanley M. Truhlsen Eye Institute. After years of planning, the state-of-the-art facility was completed in December 2012 and celebrated its grand opening and dedication on May 22, 2013. Many dignitaries, including the mayor, the Academy’s executive vice president, various benefactors and people of ophthalmology from across the country attended. The Stanley M. Truhlsen Institute is a facility designed for outpatient eye care, children's eye care center, clinical research, subspecialty ophthalmic care and as a regional diagnostic eye center.
Dr. Truhlsen had four children (two sons and two daughters) and is married to Dorothy Johnson, his wife for 36 years. His son, Stanley Truhlsen Jr. admires his father for his many accomplishments and philanthropic commitments. Stan Jr. considers his father his best friend.
Dr. Truhlsen has served a long and illustrious career both as a physician and a philanthropist. The world owes Dr. Truhlsen a debt of gratitude for his lifetime of dedication and contribution to medicine as well as to the field of ophthalmology.