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NIH 1998 Almanac/The Organization/NEI/      

National Eye Institute: Biographical Sketch of NEI Director


Carl Kupfer, M.D.

Dr. Kupfer became the institute’s first director January 11, 1970. He was formerly professor and chairman of the department of ophthalmology, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle.

Born on February 9, 1928, in New York City, Dr. Kupfer received his A.B. degree from Yale University in 1948 and his M.D. from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1952. He completed his internship and residency at the Wilmer Eye Institute, and Johns Hopkins Hospital, and was selected to train for 1 year as a research fellow in ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute and for a second year at Harvard Medical School.

His interest and accomplishments in ophthalmology are numerous. His research in glaucoma has included studies of the circulation of aqueous humor, histopathologic examination of eyes stressed by elevated eye pressures, and developmental anatomy of the eye. He has probed the problems of amblyopia exanopsia and has contributed important papers on the use of nitrogen mustard for treatment of retino-blastoma, transcorneal electrical potential, corneal fluid pressures and the developmental histology and histochemistry of the neuromuscular junction. He has also studied the neural pathways from the eye to the brain. More recently, he has played a leadership role in fostering the use of well-designed clinical trials in ophthalmology.

Dr. Kupfer was on the American Journal of Ophthalmology editorial board . He was a member of the NIH Vision Research Training Committee, and the Neurology Program Project B committee. He currently serves on the advisory committee on basic and clinical research of the National Society to Prevent Blindness and is a member of the scientific advisory committee of Fight for Sight, Inc. He is also active in several international organizations involved in blindness prevention. He is scientific adviser to the World Health Organization on its program advisory group for the prevention of blindness and he is on the WHO expert advisory panel on trachoma and prevention of blindness.

In 1977 he was given the Public Service Award in Ophthalmology by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. He was elected to the Society of Scholars at Johns Hopkins University in 1982. Presently, he is a member of the Institute of Medicine, NAS. Civil Service honors include the HEW secretary’s Special Citation "in recognition of his outstanding performance in the development of the National Eye Institute" in 1972. The following year Dr. Kupfer received the HEW Superior Service Award for "... accomplishment in developing NEI into an effective program for improving the visual health of the American people."

In 1983 Dr. Kupfer was elected president of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, a multinational consortium committed to reducing the worldwide toll of blinding eye disease. He completed his term in November 1990.

He received the Pisart Vision Award in 1984, given by the Lighthouse, the New York Association for the Blind, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to vision research as founding director of NEI.

In recognition of his leadership role in vision research, Fight For Sight, Inc., awarded Dr. Kupfer the Mildred Weisenfeld Award for Excellence in Ophthalmology in 1987. In 1988 he received the Health for All Medal from the World Health Organization for his prevention of blindness activities as president of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness. In 1990 he received the Presidential Distinguished Executive Rank Award.

From May 1991 to August 1992, he served as the acting NIH deputy director for intramural research. In addition, he was named the 1992 recipient of the Lions Humanitarian Award, the highest honor presented by the Lions Club International.

He received the 1995 "Person of Vision" award by Prevent Blindness America, the Nation’s oldest voluntary health organization dedicated to preserving sight and fighting vision loss. He received three honorary doctor of science degrees, including one from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in 1997.


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