This Month in Medical History: The "American Nobel" of ophthalmology is born

by Olga Deshchenko, DOTmed News Reporter | June 20, 2011

Patz published the initial results of the test in 1952. His research team found that seven out of 28 infants who received high oxygen doses experienced ROP. And the incidence of ROP in the group of babies who received low oxygen doses was zero.

To collect more proof, Patz and a colleague then designed a trial that involved 18 hospitals -- the first ever clinical trial in ophthalmology. The findings reaffirmed Patz's theory and had a dramatic impact on the use of high dose oxygen therapy. Across the U.S., blindness among children decreased by 60 percent.

Patz went on to serve as the director of the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University, where he did research on novel laser technology to treat eye conditions among adults.

At the age of 78, Patz went back to school. He earned a Master of Liberal Arts degree from the Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, since his war service sidetracked his educational pursuits.

In 2004, George W. Bush awarded Patz the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor for a civilian. The former president said Patz was “the man who has given to uncounted men, women and children the gift of sight.”

Patz passed away from heart disease in his home in Pikesville, Md., last year. He was 89 years old.

The eye doctor enjoyed spending summers at a log cabin in Maine, which he built with his family. In addition to paving the way for clinical research in ophthalmology, Patz was also a devoted fly fisherman.

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