John G. Clarkson, M.D., dean emeritus of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and professor emeritus of ophthalmology, was granted Emeritus Recognition, a special category of appointment to the medical staff of University of Miami Hospital and Clinics (UMHC). The recognition comes nearly 44 years after his original appointment on July 1, 1975.
The recognition was approved on May 8 by unanimous vote of the Medical Executive Committee (MEC), according to MEC president Donald Topping Weed, M.D., W. Jarrard Goodwin professor and vice chairman for academic affairs in the Miller School’s Department of Otolaryngology. The 27 voting members of the MEC include officers and immediate past president of the medical staff, service chiefs, and chair of the credentials committee.
Emeritus Recognition “Practitioners granted Emeritus Recognition shall be those members who have retired from active Hospital practice, who are of outstanding reputation, and have provided distinguished service to the Hospital.” (Excerpted from UMHC by-laws)
Dr. Clarkson, who was nominated by Eduardo C. Alfonso, M.D., the Kathleen and Stanley J. Glaser Chair in Ophthalmology and director of Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, is the first member of the UMHC medical staff to receive this recognition. Dr. Alfonso noted that Dr. Clarkson has had an enormous impact on his career, and that of many others who came up through the ranks at the Miller School.
“I started at Bascom Palmer as a resident in 1981, and joined the faculty in 1986, and I was very fortunate to have been assigned John as my faculty member mentor,” Dr. Alfonso said. “In addition to his many accomplishments as a member of Bascom Palmer’s faculty, chair of the Department of Ophthalmology, dean of the Miller School, and chair of the American Board of Ophthalmology, he has been a stellar mentor for me and for many others looking for a career in academic medicine, clinical care, research, or administration.”
With his typical humility, Dr. Clarkson said not much should be made of his newly conferred status, and was quick to give credit to others whom he believes are more deserving of the recognition.
“There are many retired UM faculty members for whom this would be not only appropriate but whose accomplishments are much greater than mine,” Dr. Clarkson said. In our department, Drs. (Edward W.D.) Norton, (Victor) Curtin, (J. Donald) Gass, (J. Lawton) Smith, and (John T.) Flynn are examples,” he added, referring to Bascom Palmer Eye Institute’s “Founding Five.”
An internationally recognized vitro-retinal specialist, researcher, and administrator, Dr. Clarkson earned his medical degree from the Miller School and went on to serve as chairman of Bascom Palmer from 1991 to 1995. Under his leadership, Bascom Palmer attained the #1 ranking from U.S. News & World Report for the first time. He was named Dean of the Miller School in 1995 and, over the next 11 years, he recruited significant research and academic talent and presided over dramatic annual growth in both its facilities and its scientific research enterprise.
Dr. Clarkson established Bascom Palmer Eye Institute of the Palm Beaches – the Institute’s first off-campus center – and led the physical transformation of the medical campus, creating the Schoninger Research Quadrangle through the completion of the Batchelor Children’s Research Institute and the Lois Pope LIFE Center for neuroscience research. He also led the medical school’s largest capital campaign at the time, culminating in the historic $100 million gift from the family of the late Miami developer Leonard M. Miller.
After stepping down as dean in 2006, Dr. Clarkson became executive director of the American Board of Ophthalmology, the independent, nonprofit organization responsible for certifying ophthalmologists in the United States. In 2012, he received the National Physician of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award conferred by the publishers of America’s Top Doctors.
Now semi-retired, Dr. Clarkson lives with his wife, Diana, in Charlotte, North Carolina, but still sees patients at Bascom Palmer as time allows and remains active in the American Ophthalmological Society, American Academy of Ophthalmology, and American Board of Medical Specialties. He is an enthusiastic participant in the daily lives of his five grandchildren and volunteers tirelessly for his church and his community, including serving as volunteer ophthalmologist for indigent patients at the local Lions Eye Clinic in Charlotte.