In Memoriam – Dr Frank Polack

July 24, 2008 by  

On July 15 2007 Dr. Frank Polack, our colleague and friend, passed away. Frank was born and raised in Lima, Peru, and received his MD degree in 1954 from San Marcos University. After his graduation he emigrated to the United States, where he did his internship and began a residency in Neuropsychiatry at Grasslands Hospital, Valhalla, NY, a subsidiary of New York University Medical School. In 1956 he was married by proxy, his brother standing in for him, to his childhood sweetheart, Patricia Garcia, then Secretary to American Ambassador to Peru, who soon joined him in New York.


His contact with Dr. Ramon Castroviejo, the world-renowned pioneer in corneal surgery, had persuaded him to change his career choice to ophthalmology, and in 1957, he began his training at Grasslands under Dr. AG ‘‘Gerry” Devoe, then Chair at NYU, who was also a pioneer in corneal surgery. On completion of his residency in 1960, he began an NIH Fellowship under Dr George Smelser at the Eye Institute at Columbia, where he remained for 7 years, during which time he published his groundbreaking studies on electron microscopy of the eye.


Frank joined the faculty at SUNY HSCB where he formed a close personal association with Dr. Donald Willard, with whom he founded the American Ophthalmic Microsurgery Study Club in 1980. In 1967, he left New York to join Dr Herbert Kaufman at the University of Florida, where he continued his clinical and research interests in the cornea, reaching the rank of professor, as well as appointments as adjunct professor in the departments of veterinary medicine and of anatomy.


It was in May 1975 at the PAAO Meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico, that Frank organized a meeting of a group of former students and associates and colleagues of Dr Ramon Castroviejo and proposed to form a society devoted exclusively to the cornea, to be called the Castroviejo Society (renamed the Cornea Society in 2002). Frank, as principal architect of the society, was elected secretary-treasurer and the first meeting was held during the 1975 AAOO meeting in Dallas, TX. In 1978, Frank founded the journal Cornea, the official journal of the society and the first peer-reviewed journal devoted to the cornea. He remained its editor in chief until 1991.


Frank was a frequent lecturer at national and international meetings and courses. Over his career, he published 180 peer reviewed papers, 5 books, and 12 book chapters on electron microscopy, immunology and corneal transplantation, external disease, and microsurgery of the eye.


In 1980, he left full-time academic medicine and entered private practice in Gainesville. Pat continued to work closely with him in his office, on the journal, and on his continuing publications until his retirement in 2001. In 2005 he was awarded the World Congress Medal, the highest honor of the World Corneal Congress V sponsored by the Cornea Society, in recognition of his many clinical and scientific contributions to the subspecialty, and in particular for his seminal role in the founding of the Castroviejo Society, and the journal Cornea.


Frank is survived by his wife of 51 years, Patricia; 3 sons, Frank E., Peter, a specialist in cornea and refractive surgery, and William; and 4 grandsons.



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