December 28, 1945 - September 23, 2013 Richard M. Handwerger, MD was raised in his native New York City. He was born one of two children to Irving and Anne Handwerger on December 28, 1945. His life was rich in the dramaturgy of his two loves: music and medicine. He is survived by his sister Cheryl, and her two children Alex and Ivy. Richard was affiliated with numerous professional organizations, he was a board certified ophthalmologist and held practice licenses California, New York, Hawaii and was certified by the National Board of Medical Examiners. Richard graduated from the prestigious High School of Music and Art, (currently at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in Manhattan), he was accepted to the Julliard School of Music, but instead chose a professional path in Medicine rather than in Music. He was enrolled at Columbia University in both MD and Ph.D. programs, the latter under Fellow of the Faculty Scholarship Award in Medical Microbiology and Infectious Disease, at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York. After completing a straight medical internship at Columbia University, concurrently as a teaching fellow, he completed his residency in Eye Surgery at the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital in 1977, before his departure to California. In Los Angeles, he became founder and director of the first corneal transplant program for Kaiser Permanente in Southern California from 1977 to 1982, where he was a full partner. Based in Los Angeles, he received referrals from all of Southern California, Hawaii and surrounding states. During this time, he routinely brought academically challenging patients to Corneal Grand Rounds at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA to the benefit of both patient and resident staff alike. His specialty education, training and experience concentrated on a vast variety of difficult cornea cases, including infant and adult corneal transplants and refractory surgery. His dramatic work on infant corneal transplants was the unsolicited subject of numerous local and national radio broadcasts, TV-News and newspaper articles on Corneal Transplants, including the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Herald Examiner and the Beverly Hills Courier. After distinguished recognition by patients, colleagues and the media, Richard left Kaiser Permanente to pursue private practice in Beverly Hills which he continued for the next thirty years paired his career in Medical-Legal as an expert witness. He was a Qualified Medical Examiner for the State of California and an Independent Medical Expert Reviewer for the California Medical Board. Richard's impressive memberships included the American Academy of Ophthalmology, International Society of Refractive Surgery, Royal Academy of Medicine, American College of Legal Medicine, American Society for Cataract and Refractive Surgery, Pan-American Society of Ophthalmology, California Society of Industrial Medicine and Surgery and the Los Angeles Society of Ophthalmology. In 1987 he received a City of Los Angeles Commendation, signed by Mayor Tom Bradley, for the Gift of Sight Program. Throughout the 80's and 90's, he traveled to Mexico and donated his time, expertise and knowledge to perform free eye surgeries for impoverished patients with organizations such as the World Health Volunteers. During this period, he was a member of the Medical Advisory Board of the Lions-Doheny Eye and Tissue Bank at USC and maintained a hospital appointment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. At Cedars-Sinai, he was positioned on the Bio-Ethics and Risk Management Committee, member of the Laser Eye Associates (LASIK) and active on the Board of Directors for the Eye Birth Defects Research Foundation. Richard was a talented pianist and was an enthusiastic member of the Los Angeles Music Community, and sat on numerous Boards of Directors. He was a long time supporter and member of the Board of Directors for the American Youth Symphony Philharmonic Orchestra. His other strong passions he shared with music and medicine were photography and astronomy. But most of all, Richard thrived on the joy and creativity of music and the piano he loved so passionately to play. Richard Michael Handwerger, MD was layed to rest in peace on September 27, 2013 in a private traditional Jewish ceremony at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary at the age of 67. Proceeds from Richard's estate will be used to establish the Richard Michael Handwerger, MD Memorial Scholarship Fund at Columbia University School of Medicine at New York in perpetuity. Richards' loving and giving nature will forever continue even after departing this earth and leaving behind his many surviving and admiring friends and colleagues. He will be always loved and forever missed. Amen.
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Published in the Los Angeles Times from Oct. 6 to Oct. 8, 2013