Yale L. Fisher, MD

Yale L. Fisher, MD, is co-founder of Vitreous Retina Macula Consultants of New York and a voluntary clinical professor of ophthalmology at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City and the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, Florida.      

Dr. Fisher’s impact on the world of retina is undeniable. He has led the way in developing new techniques and instruments—particularly in ultrasonography and vitreoretinal surgery. His pioneering work in ocular endoscopy has expanded the boundaries of what is possible in our field, and Dr. Fisher has shared his expertise extensively with audiences worldwide.

He has published numerous books and contributed chapters and peer-reviewed articles largely focused on ultrasonography of the eye, as well as teaching programs for endoscopic controlled imaging during vitreoretinal surgery.

Dr. Fisher is a New Jersey native who attended Cornell University, where he applied to medical school at the end of his junior year. Acceptance at Cornell Medical School allowed double registration; he graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in 1964 and completed his medical degree in 1967. Internship followed at New Presbyterian Hospital, after which Dr. Fisher attended Manhattan Eye, Ear & Throat Hospital (MEETH) for his ophthalmic residency.

Dr. Fisher (far right) with the team from Vitreous Retina Macula Consultants of New York.

He served 2 years in the US Army as an ophthalmologist during the Vietnam War. After returning to New York City, Dr. Fisher began a 55-year career in private practice with Lawrence Yannuzzi, MD. The practice became subspecialized in retina in 1989, when its professional name was changed to Vitreous Retina Macula Consultants of New York (VRMNY).  

In 2006, Dr. Fisher moved his family to South Florida and began an alternating schedule that included practice and teaching time in Manhattan at VRMNY as well as Weill Cornell Medicine and an academic affiliation at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami. He continues to practice and teach at all 3 locations.

Dr. Fisher is a member of the ASRS as well as the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), Club Jules Gonin, and the Retina Society. His many honors include the AAO Lifetime Achievement Award, the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society (1967), and the Phi Beta Kappa Society (1964).

Dr. Fisher shared the following reflections on the field of retina:

Please share a defining moment that shaped your career. Was there a time in your career when you witnessed history in the making?

I’ll never forget an unexpected meeting in 1969 during the fall of my second year of residency. While leaving the pediatric clinic about 5:30 PM, I noticed a middle-aged man opening a large box and tool kit in a side room next to the clinic area. I paused and asked if I could help.

He looked at me and without hesitation said, “Sure … if you are willing to help until I am finished … no telling how long.” The individual was Nathanial R. Bronson, MD, a volunteer ophthalmologist, engineer, and scientific tinkerer at MEETH. He lived in Southampton, New York, but came to the hospital once a week to attend the retina service.

Nathaniel R. Bronson, MD

With a slight, stuttering voice, Dr. Bronson explained he was developing a new, mobile imaging device for interpreting opaque ocular media: a contact B-scan ultrasonoscope constructed on the frame of what looked like a portable television.

I was fascinated; I stayed until midnight and was fortunate to see the first, fuzzy, wobbling, almost-fused image of my eye in real-time, grayscale ultrasound. Nat Bronson had built it in his garage! This unexpected and consequential meeting was the beginning of my lifelong interest in ophthalmic ultrasonography.

Dr. Bronson and I began an ongoing referral clinic for diagnostic contact B-scan at MEETH in the spring of 1970.

Ultrasonography led to my interest in the developing area of vitreoretinal surgery, especially for intraocular foreign body (IOFB) extraction. I was fortunate to work with incredible colleagues who were extremely generous with their knowledge and surgical skills, particularly Steve Charles, MD, FASRS. Vitreoretinal developments exploded during the 1970s and set the stage for current instruments.

During the late 1980s, I began working with Rishard Weiss, BSs Eng, a Canadian scientist and instrument manufacturer, to develop a 3D, contact B-scan ultrasound device and a small-gauge endoscope for use during vitreoretinal surgery. The 3D device proved useful for mapping complex pathology and the 20-gauge 30K-pixel scope allowed surgical capability in limited-view situations. Other instruments we developed included a variety of devices for IOFB removal such as a hand-controlled, switched, intraocular electromagnet.

Academic instructional courses for ultrasonography have been part of the AAO Annual Meeting for 25 years and have been offered for 50 years at numerous academic centers and meetings worldwide.

In 2010, I became interested in online education, which led me to develop, a 2-portal, charitable, free instructional site for physicians and patients. The first portal offers courses in many retinal subjects including ultrasonography by recognized experts for physicians and paraprofessionals.

The site’s second portal is geared toward patients—particularly those with limited vision. A library of written and oral programs, vetted by a low-vision expert, aids those with limited vision in improving the quality of their lives. also has 2 smartphone application offshoots: OE Acronyms, an app focused on ophthalmic acronyms; and MSA Acronyms, a resource for medical-surgical acronyms. Both apps remain free to all.  

What career accomplishment provides you with the greatest sense of satisfaction?

I’ve derived the most career satisfaction from patient care and teaching diagnostic ultrasound and endoscopy for vitreoretinal surgery.

What do you feel is the most significant development or change in the practice of retina?

I believe the most important developments are imaging and vitreoretinal surgical miniaturization.

How do you imagine the practice of retina will change by 2040?

In the coming decades, I think retina practice will be changed by genetic-guided evaluation and diagnosis, as well as artificial intelligence-guided research, diagnosis, and treatment.

Can you share any advice to future generations of retina specialists?

First, maintain and enhance relations with peers. No one does it alone. Honesty, kindness, and humility remain critical.

Second, understanding the emotional impact of disease and treatment on our patients will continue to be paramount to successful care.  

Third, the key to advancement remains fortuitous, careful observation with conscientious follow-up.    

Click here to see Dr. Fisher’s Leaders & Legends interview and learn more about his extraordinary career.

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