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In memoriam: Henry F. Edelhauser
Henry Edelhauser in his lab at Emory Eye Center in May 2012

Henry Edelhauser in his lab at Emory Eye Center in May 2012. Press Release.

Emory Eye Center was saddened to announce the passing of Henry F. Edelhauser, former director of research for Emory Eye Center (1989-2013), on Wednesday evening, December 2nd. Our friend, educator, inspired and innovative researcher, esteemed colleague was a "vitreoretinal great."

He was the rare researcher who easily traversed between the worlds of clinicians and basic scientists with grace. He collaborated with MDs throughout his service at Emory to attain the highest level of translational research that could be of help to countless patients with vision loss. Through the years, he made lasting friendships with the many colleagues and collaborators he worked alongside as well as mentoring many young scientists.

In 1989, incoming chair, Thomas Aaberg, hired Edelhauser from the Medical College of Wisconsin to lead the small research program at Emory Eye Center. In Milwaukee, Edelhauser had risen from assistant, to associate, to full professor.  At Emory, he was appointed the Sylvia Montag Ferst and Frank W. Ferst Professor of Ophthalmology and the director of ophthalmic research.

By the time of his retirement in 2013, Eye Center research had grown from some five researchers to nine, as well as amassing a number of adjunct professors and collaborators at the VA’s Center for Visual & Neurocognitive Rehabilitation, Georgia Institute of Technology and Morehouse College.

Dr. Edelhauser’s leadership in translational vision research produced high impact work that has distinguished Emory Eye Center’s research program for more than 25 years.

Not only was he a brilliant physiologist, he also understood clinical ophthalmology, especially ophthalmic surgery. His role in the development of irrigating solutions for ophthalmic surgery combined with his landmark work on the corneal endothelium has helped millions of people see better and avoid blindness. His academic accomplishments are too numerous to list. He was so well known in clinical ophthalmology that people confused his PhD for an MD. Most importantly, Dr. Edelhauser’s character was impeccable. He was knowledgeable, also wise, yet always humble. His spirit was kind, gentle and approachable, combined with an eternal optimism and genuine curiosity.

"Dr. Edelhauser was the best translational research scientist in ophthalmology. His discoveries helped countless patients regain and retain sight,” says Hans E. Grossniklaus. “He was an irreplaceable colleague and friend. He will be sorely missed."

In a fitting tribute to Edelhauser in 2012, former student Tracy Kangas, MD, PhD, wrote “All I Need to Know I Learned in Hank’s Lab.” She remarked that he taught his students many things in addition to science. Among what she gleaned from his teachings were: Be on time, because Hank will be early. Be honest and direct in all areas of your life, period. Build bridges and then look for new bridges to build, never burn them. Kangas well understood his character, remarking, “Hank practiced humility like his dear friend Dr. Tom Aaberg.”

Dr. Edelhaser won nearly every national award in vision research, including the prestigious Castroviejo and Proctor medals, the highest honors in his field. At the presentation of the Proctor Award, he was cited for “elegant translational research from basic science to clinical applications.” In 2010 he presented the Charles D. Kelman Innovators Lecture at ASCRS. Dr. Edelhauser was past president of ARVO and was honored in 2012 by the ARVO Foundation for Eye Research (AFER) for his lifetime of work. Throughout his career he spoke at major conferences on many continents, having been regarded as a consummate expert on innovative vision research, as well as being an accomplished speaker.

Dr. Edelhauser was recipient of the 2012 “Start-up Company of the Year” award at Emory University for Clearside Biomedical, Inc., and development of the joint microneedle drug delivery technology created with collaborators at Georgia Tech. In 2014, he was honored with a “Bio Deal of the Year Award” for Clearside and its targeted therapeutics for the treatment of sight threatening diseases. By 2014, Clearside had received $8M from investors for the novel injection technique for retinal diseases.

He leaves behind wife Barbara, and children Scott Edelhauser and Jill Harshman.

Edelhauser with the five vitreoretinal greats

Six of the greats of vitreoretinal surgery [from left above] George Blankenship (retired, Penn State Hershey Medical Center), Jean-Marie Parel (Bascom Palmer, McKnight Vision Research Center), Thomas M. Aaberg Sr. (Chair Emeritus, Emory Eye Center), Helmut Büettner (Mayo Medical Center, Rochester, N.Y.), Henry Edelhauser, and Gary Abrams (Kresge Eye Institute) gathered to take part in the documentary film, "The History of Vitreoretian Surgery," in 2011 at the Center.

The gathering was orchestrated by Edelhauser. He decided this was the perfect time to assemble these pioneers and produce a video about them and their marks on the world of vitreoretinal surgery. Hiring a top-notch videographer and bringing these five men to the Emory campus, he oversaw all arrangements to chronicle their contributions to medicine.The result is the high-definition video below.  It has been shown at national ophthalmology meetings and is also available from Emory Eye Center's YouTube channel.

A History of Vitreoretinal Surgery from EmoryEyeCenter on Vimeo.

If you are interested in contributing a gift in Dr. Edelhauser’s honor, please direct your gift to either the Henry F. Edelhauser Lecture in Translational Research at Emory Eye Center or contact Karla Ruggiero, director of development, karla.ruggiero@emory.edu.

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