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Johns Hopkins Medicine
Office of Corporate Communications
MEDIA CONTACT:  John M. Lazarou
PHONE:  410-502-8902

June 17, 2004


Arnall Patz, a former director of the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute and winner of a Lasker Award for his discovery of a treatment for a disease that once was the most common cause of childhood blindness, will be presented with the 2004 Person of Vision Award from the Maryland Society for Sight on Saturday, June 19, at 7 p.m. at Pimlico Race Track.  Patz will be honored for his lifelong contributions to ophthalmology, which includes the development of the argon laser used in the treatment of glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

“Dr. Patz will always be considered, by his peers and those throughout our profession, as a man who contributed so critically to preserving sight,” said Peter J. McDonnell, M.D., and current director of the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins.  “As a member of the faculty of Wilmer for the last 50 years, his inspiration and leadership to fellow professionals along with his guidance and encouragement to all of our medical students, make us fortunate to know him.”

Early in his medical career, Patz was credited with discovering the cause of and treatment for retrolental fibroplasia, an abnormal overgrowth of blood vessels in the eye causing irreparable damage to the retina in premature infants.  Known today as retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) in newborns, during the 1950s this condition was the most common cause of childhood blindness.  The condition was caused by giving high levels of oxygen therapy to oxygen-needy premature infants.

Despite fierce resistance from the medical establishment, Patz scientifically proved the link between exposure to high levels of oxygen and blindness and effectively ended the problem by suggesting ways to shield the infants’ eyes during oxygen therapy.  The vision of countless infants was saved.  For his work, he was awarded in 1956 the Albert Lasker Medical Research Award, sometimes dubbed the "American Nobel."  The award recognizes scientists, physicians and public servants whose accomplishments have made major advances in the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, prevention and cure of many of the great cripplers and killers of our century. 

Following his work on ROP, Patz studied ways to stop the leaking and overgrowth of blood vessels in the retina, a condition associated with many diseases of the eye.  Recognizing the potential of lasers to seal the leaking and stop the overgrowth of fragile blood vessels in the retina, Patz developed the argon laser with the help of colleagues at the Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.  Their work paved the way for treatment of many degenerative eye conditions, including diabetic retinopathy, AMD, glaucoma and retinal tearing.

Patz joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 1970 and founded its Retinal Vascular Center.  From 1979 to 1989, he served as the fourth director of The Wilmer Eye Institute.  Under his direction, the Institute continued to grow its reputation as the world’s foremost eye care and research center.  Currently he is serving as director emeritus of the Wilmer Eye Institute.

In 1994, Patz was awarded the first Helen Keller Prize for Vision Research and has received many other distinguished ophthalmology awards, including the Friedenwald Research Award in 1980, the inaugural Isaac C. Michaelson Medal in 1986 and the 2001 Pisart International Vision Award from The Lighthouse International.

Patz, a native of Elberton, Ga., graduated from the Emory University School of Medicine in 1945. At age 78, he earned a master of liberal arts degree from Johns Hopkins University.  Patz resides in Baltimore with his wife, Ellen, and has four children and eight grandchildren.

- -JHMI- -

The Wilmer Eye Institute

The Maryland Society for Sight