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50th Anniversary: OPS Roots at BPEI
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OPS Roots at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute

Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, often listed as the #1 eye institution in North America, has a long and impressive history.  It is the site of many exciting discoveries in the practice of Ophthalmology, but it was also uniquely instrumental in the development of ophthalmic imaging as a science and profession, and the birth of the Ophthalmic Photographers’ Society.

After Drs Alvis and Novotny did their landmark work on “inventing” a technique for fluorescein angiography at Indiana University, Dr. Noble J. David at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Durham, NC , read their article, “Photography of Fluorescein Dye Circulating Through Retinal Vessels”,  and incorporated their new technique into neurology clinical care, primarily to determine arm-to-retina circulation times.  Johnny Justice was the Assistant Chief Photographer at the Durham VA who performed many of these early studies.

Several years later, Dr. E.W.D. Norton, Chairman of the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, sought to investigate and utilize fluorescein angiography to study pathology of the retina and choroid by establishing a fluorescein angiography lab.  Johnny was recruited to the position and he became the primary photographer for that groundbreaking work. 

Between Dr. Norton and Dr. J Donald M. Gass, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute became leaders in the utilization of fluorescein angiography as a greater understanding of the circulation and pathophysiology of the retina and choroid grew, and with it, a greater need for angiographers to perform the studies.  As these inquisitive, talented physicians learned more about angiography, they shared their knowledge with other physicians, and soon their ophthalmic photographers were seeking each other out and learning from each other.  A fascinating bit of trivia is that the only fundus camera in those early days at BPEI, (and perhaps the only one in Miami), had been dismantled and smuggled out of Havana, Cuba, by a dedicated ophthalmologist Olga Ferrer, and her husband Dr. Alfred Sklar, who were escaping from the Communist takeover by the Castro regime.  Exciting times!

Johnny had a dream of establishing a Society whose primary mission was to advance the profession of ophthalmic photography.  As the network of ophthalmic photographers grew along with the utilization of fluorescein angiography globally, enthusiasm for establishing an association of photographers mounted.  And as that momentum grew, the physicians and staff at BPEI encouraged and facilitated Johnny’s efforts to create an ophthalmic photography organization.  He has been quoted as saying, ”Without the enthusiasm and hard work of my Secretary, Mrs. Jessica (Pixie) Eichrodt, … this Society may not have become a reality.”

The Ophthalmic Photographers’ Society was created in 1969, and the organization is registered in the state of Florida.  Our Society’s creation is perhaps a story of the right person in the right place at the right time:  Johnny Justice with his talent, personality and enthusiasm, helped to establish the use of the new fluorescein angiography procedure in Ophthalmology, and was supported and encouraged by an understanding and cutting edge organization, the Bascom Palmer Eye institute.  The rest is our 50 year history.

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