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David Epstein M.D., MMM

1944 - 2014 Obituary Condolences
David Epstein M.D., MMM Obituary
David Lee Epstein, MD, MMM, the Joseph A.C. Wadsworth Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at Duke University and Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at Duke University, died suddenly on his farm in Bahama, NC on March 4, 2014. He was buried on March 10th, 2014, not far from his beloved Harding's Beach, in Chatham, MA on Cape Cod. He was 69 years old. Dr. Epstein was an internationally acclaimed and respected ophthalmologist, eye researcher, entrepreneur, and leader, as well as a beloved educator, mentor, and colleague- a passionate advocate of the central role of the clinician-scientist in translating laboratory discoveries into powerful new therapies to treat patients. He was a brilliant physician who devoted his career to the study and treatment of glaucoma, the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world. Among his many honors was the Duke Distinguished Faculty Award, one of Duke University's highest awards. David was the son of the late Philip Samuel Epstein and Shirley Epstein Morris. He grew up in a close-knit community on the north side of Chicago. After graduation from Senn High School in 1961, he attended Johns Hopkins University and Medical School, graduating in 1968 as a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Omega Alpha honorary fraternities. While in his first year of medical school, he met Susan Matthews, a first year nursing student at Johns Hopkins, when she aimed a snowball at him and accidentally knocked out his contact lens. They celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary on November 30, 2013. After completing a medical internship at the University of Washington in 1969, David served as a flight surgeon in the USAF for two years at the Brooks School of Aerospace Medicine in San Antonio, TX. Upon completion of military service, he began his many years of residency and fellowship at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary of Harvard Medical School, under the tutelage of Drs. Paul A. Chandler and W. Morton Grant, pioneers in glaucoma research and treatment. These two men remained David's most revered professional role models for the rest of his life. In 1978, David joined the faculty of Harvard Medical School, and quickly rose to the position of Director of the Glaucoma Service at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. He left Harvard to become Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at the Duke University School of Medicine in 1992. During his 22 years at Duke, the Duke Department of Ophthalmology faculty expanded seven-fold, as David recruited the most talented and motivated candidates from around the world. As Chair of the department, he led the drive to fund and build the state-of-the-art Albert Eye Research Institute at Duke. The day before he died, David was proudly watching over the construction of the Hudson Building, a new clinical eye care facility at Duke, currently underway as a result of his determined efforts. In addition to his devotion to the Duke Eye Center and to his family, David loved his cocker spaniels Tinker and Max, his vast collection of antique clocks, his cottage on the Cape, and the Duke Blue Devils Men's Basketball Team, especially when they beat the loathsome Carolina Tarheels, as was often the case. A proud Iron Duke, David never gave up hoping that Coach K might call upon him for his advice on how to best utilize his players, especially tall centers. To his only child, Michael, an associate professor of human genetics at Emory University Medical School, in Atlanta, GA, David passed his love of academia, science, discovery and appreciation of the shared obligation of all humanity to heal the world (Tikkun Olam). In addition to his son, David leaves his wife Susan to cherish memories of their long and wonderful life together. His adored grandson Samuel, beloved daughter-in-law Lenea, one sister Sharon and brother-in-law Fred Drazner (Highland Park, IL) and their children, Uncle Harvey Fleishman (Davie, FL), many nieces, nephews, friends, colleagues, and the Duke Eye Center family, survive to honor the memory and life of this good man. Memorial contributions may be made to the David L. Epstein MD, MMM Innovation Fund, either online at www.gifts.duke.edu/dukeeye or may be mailed to: Duke Eye Center, David L Epstein MD, MMM Innovation Fund, Attn: Development Office, 2351 Erwin Road, DUMC 3802, Durham, NC 27710.
Published in a Chicago Tribune Media Group Publication on Mar. 20, 2014
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