Contributed by Jeff Win, MD (Cand.)
Victor T. Curtin, MD was born on September 12, 1925, in Lawrence, Massachusetts. During his early years, he attended the Phillips Andover Academy for high school; he later went on to receive an undergraduate degree at Harvard College before joining the U.S. Army Medical Corps in Japan for a year. Subsequently, he attended Harvard Medical School where he became a resident physician in 1953 Soon afterward, he interned at San Francisco County Hospital and later completed his ophthalmology residency at Cornell University Medical College in 1958. He then pursued a dual fellowship in ocular pathology and retinal diseases at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, followed by a fellowship in ophthalmic pathology at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. By 1959, he was one of the first faculty members to be hired by Dr. Edward Norton into the new division of ophthalmology at the University of Miami School of Medicine.
In January of 1962, Dr. Curtin and Dr. Norton established the Florida Lions Eye Bank and Ocular Pathology Laboratory at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute by partnering with the Lions Clubs of South Florida. This was the first eye bank in Florida to provide corneas for transplantation and research; since its inception in 2016, the bank has provided ophthalmologists with donor eye tissues and pathology specimens, serving a total of approximately 160,000 patients. Not only was Dr. Curtin considered a pioneer in the research, but he also played a pivotal role in educating medical students and residents by teaching direct ophthalmoscopy and indirect ophthalmology, respectively.
In 1973, The Aspen Retinal Detachment Society (ARDS) was founded by Dr. Bill Edward and Dr. Ott Jones whose goals were to actively share knowledge amongst ophthalmologists. Dr. Curtin and Dr. Mary Lou Lewis were part of the Organizing Committee and played a crucial role in planning out the ARDS meeting and selecting speakers. In 1996, he retired from serving as the director of Bascom Palmer’s residency program and chairman of the resident and fellow selection committee. Nevertheless, his overwhelming passion to educate residents was evident as he continued to come to his lab to teach his ocular pathology slides. In 1986, the Victor T. Curtin Chair in Ophthalmology was founded to support research in experimental ocular pathology.
After serving as an emeritus professor of ophthalmology at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute for 57 years, Dr. Curtin passed away on March 9th, 2016, in Miami, Florida at age 91 due to sepsis. His p lives on as the Eye Bank and Pathology Laboratory have continued to provide patient care and educate ophthalmologists-in-training to lead teaching hospitals around the world.
Dr. Eduardo Alfonso, MD, current chairman at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, characterized Dr. Curtin’s commitment to serving as a role model and furthering his students’ education: “Known for his honesty and integrity, Dr. Curtin always led by example. I, and all my colleagues, will forever be indebted to him not only for the opportunity to train with him but also for his warmth and good judgment.”