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Institutional Advancement & Philanthropy

About Dr. Richard C. Troutman

Over the last fifty years, pioneers with insight, creativity, and dedication have laid the foundation for the modern science of ophthalmology, including the use of microsurgical instruments and techniques. One of the most significant pioneers is Richard C. Troutman.


photo of Dr TroutmanThe Early Years

Richard Troutman was born in 1922. The son of a physician whose specialties were ophthalmology and otolaryngology, his early interest in medicine was stimulated by frequent trips accompanying his father to the hospital. His initial medical education took place at Ohio State University. He completed his residency and fellowship training in ophthalmology at New York Hospital – Cornell University Medical Center in June 1951, after an ophthalmology fellowship and residency in the United States Navy. Pursuing his interest in teaching, he accepted an appointment as resident instructor in ophthalmology at the Manhattan Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital. He held this position until 1955, while also an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at Cornell Medical College. In addition, he maintained a private practice.

Developing the Ophthalmic Surgery Microscope

For Dr. Troutman, employing a microscope in eye surgery was the beginning of a career-long series of innovations. A meticulous surgeon, Dr. Troutman was frustrated by the uncertainties involved in performing ophthalmic surgery under direct vision. He was convinced that magnifying the operative area through microscopy would provide enormous benefit.

He approached Zeiss Oberkochen, the German microscope manufacturer, with this idea in 1953, and convinced Zeiss to construct a microscope specifically for his use at New York Hospital. This marked the beginning of his revolutionary contributions to ophthalmology and ophthalmic microsurgery.

In addition to refining the ophthalmic microscope's design and mounting apparatus, Dr. Troutman introduced the remote-controlled motorized zoom-magnification microscope, which made it possible to vary the magnification over the course of a single procedure. When he demonstrated it at an American Academy of Ophthalmology meeting in 1965, interest in ophthalmic microsurgery soared.

Advances in Medical Education

In June 1955, already recognized as an important innovator, Dr. Troutman accepted an appointment as Professor and Head of the Division of Ophthalmology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. He served in this capacity for 27 years, retiring in 1983.

When Dr. Troutman began his tenure at Downstate, he recognized that the institution had enormous potential but faced several challenges. In particular, the residency program needed an innovative approach to medical education, and Dr. Troutman proved to be the right person to provide it. With his friend Dr. Austin Fink, associate professor of ophthalmology, Dr. Troutman established one of the first subspecialty ophthalmology programs in the United States. Approved by the American Medical Association, the program quickly attracted a large and noteworthy pool of applicants.

The program's curriculum was designed so that each of the distinctive areas was supervised by specialty-trained faculty in the fields of anterior segment, glaucoma, retina, ophthalmic plastics, strabismus and neuro-ophthalmology. Within three years, the residency program had expanded to become very dynamic. The subspecialty approach, coupled with Dr. Troutman's enthusiasm for ophthalmic microsurgery, made the program both attractive and competitive. The training his residents and fellows received was rigorous and challenging. The program soon required a three-year residency commitment and grew rapidly to include 18 residents plus 6 additional fellows attending for a fourth year of subspecialty training.

The innovative residency and fellowship programs received significant support from a Training Grant from the newly established National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Blindness. The administration at Kings County Hospital Center also assisted the programs by providing space and equipment for a much-needed new eye clinic, a dedicated operating room and an in-patient area. In addition, the Brooklyn Veterans Administration Medical Center and four community-affiliated hospitals contributed significant support for faculty and residents salaries. This generous support allowed Dr. Troutman and his faculty to initiate what became a popular undergraduate teaching program in Downstate's College of Medicine, which attracted numerous medical students to postgraduate training in ophthalmology.

By 1961, Dr. Troutman, while continuing his private practice in Manhattan, was appointed a surgeon director at Manhattan Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital. He also served there for two years as chairman of the Eye Department. In 1962, Dr. Troutman initiated at Manhattan Eye and Ear the subspecialty clinic system that he had pioneered at Downstate. Concurrently, he organized, with Drs. Byron Smith and John Converse, the First International Symposium on Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery of the Eye and Adnexa. One of the primary subjects included in this symposium was his groundbreaking work on microsurgery of the anterior segment.

Zoom Magnification

Besides his involvement in teaching and clinical activities, Dr. Troutman continued to make further advances in ophthalmic microsurgery. Realizing that further improvements could be made to microsurgical instruments and materials, he developed or modified them accordingly. Having worked with the Zeiss microscope for nine years, he identified several ways to improve its support and focusing capabilities. In 1962, with the Keeler Instrument Company of London, he designed the first zoom-magnification ophthalmic surgical microscope. By 1965, he had more ideas for its improvement and asked Weck Surgical to incorporate this zoom microscope with remote-activated focusing, magnification tilting and X-Y controls. These refinements enabled the surgeon to devote full attention and concentration to the manipulations in the operative field. The instruments that Dr. Troutman developed became – and continue to be – the first choice in ophthalmic microsurgery. Realizing the tremendous advantages offered by magnification of the operative field, surgeons from other disciplines, including vascular, hand and neurological surgery, quickly adopted the zoom microscope for their own needs.

As Dr. Troutman continued to perfect ophthalmic microsurgery, both its influence on ophthalmic surgery and its importance to ophthalmology attracted interest from abroad. In 1965, with Professors Heinrich Harms and Gunter Mackensen from Tübingen, Germany, Dr. Troutman founded the Ophthalmic Microsugery Study Group, which has been instrumental in the development of microsurgery as it exists today.

Dr. Troutman, with members of the Downstate Medical Center faculty, initiated annual practical hands-on courses at both Downstate and at the annual meetings of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. It was through these courses that he and his fellows introduced to hundreds of ophthalmologists the use of the zoom microscope for eye surgery. Now called "skills-transfer courses," these continue to be a regular feature of the annual American Academy of Ophthalmology meetings for the teaching of new and advanced microsurgical skills.

Nurturing Exceptional Talent

Dr. Troutman nurtured highly competitive residency programs. In his commitment to excellence in ophthalmology and education, Dr. Troutman provided exceptional opportunities to talented individuals. Many of his past residents and fellows have become leaders in the further advancement of the science of ophthalmology. One became President of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, eight occupy or have occupied departmental chairs, and many more have continued as faculty at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and its affiliates or at other teaching institutions throughout North and Central America, Europe, Australia, and Japan.

In 1976, Dr. Troutman and his wife, Dr. Suzanne Véronneau, an internationally recognized specialist in ocular motility and strabismus microsurgery, along with current and former patients, fellows, and friends, established the Microsurgical Research Foundation. The primary goals of this nonprofit organization are to further the education of ophthalmologists and to foster creativity and originality in ophthalmic microsurgery. In 2002 the Microsurgical Research Foundation, along with SUNY Downstate Medical Center, established the Richard C. Troutman, M.D., Distinguished Chair in Ophthalmology and Ophthalmic Microsurgery.

Dr. Troutman is internationally recognized as one of the originators of corneal transplant surgery. His comprehension of the delicate issues involved in quality and timely delivery of corneal tissue led to his interest in and advocacy of eye banks and eye banking. Dr. Troutman helped enlighten the medical community as well as the public about tissue donation and its harvesting, testing, matching, storage, and safe delivery. He was appointed Chair of the American Academy of Ophthalmology's Eye Bank Committee and served as a member of several medical advisory boards, including the Eye Bank for Sight Restoration, Inc., the Eye Bank Association of America, Tissue Banks International and the International Eye Bank. Representing each of these boards, he traveled extensively throughout North and South America as well as Asia to organize and promote eye banking. In 1991 he received the Paton Medal from the Eye Bank Association of America for his contributions and dedication.

Beyond Dr. Troutman's successes as a teacher, researcher, scientist and writer, he was a gifted clinician and dedicated healer. He took a personal interest in his patients and had a deep understanding and respect for their individual needs. Without fanfare, Dr. Troutman retired from clinical practice on June 30, 1990. His contributions continue to help restore and safeguard the eyesight of millions of patients worldwide.

Summary of Dr. Troutman's Achievements

  • 1954–2001 Authored and co-authored 9 books and more than 150 articles & book chapters in scientific publications, many of which detail his innovative microsurgical techniques.
  • 1954–2001 Recognized with numerous awards and named lectureships in recognition of his pioneering advances in Ophthalmology and Ophthalmic Microsurgery. He is a member of many specialty societies including the prestigious American Ophthalmological Society (AOS), founded in 1864.
  • 1955–1983 Served as Professor and Head, Division of Ophthalmology, State University of New York – Downstate Medical Center.
  • 1954 Designed and had constructed by Zeiss Oberkochen his first ophthalmic surgical microscope.
  • 1957 Designed and had constructed at DMC the first hydraulic, chair-supported ophthalmic surgical microscope for use in the operating suite.
  • 1957 Dr. Troutman's DMC Division of Ophthalmology postgraduate training program was the first in the United States to routinely teach microsurgery of the eye to its residents.
  • 1962 Developed, with the Keeler Instrument Company, and used the first remote-controlled motorized zoom-magnification microscope for ophthalmic microsurgery.
  • 1965 Co-founded, with two like-minded European ophthalmologists, the International Microsurgery Study Group to further disseminate ophthalmic microsurgical instrumentation and techniques.
  • 1965 With his faculty and residents instituted annual Microsurgery Practical Courses at DMC and at the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). The model for many contemporary "skills transfer courses" that continue to be a regular feature of the AAO.
  • 1967 First ophthalmologist to perform microsurgery for correction of severe corneal astigmatism following penetrating keratoplasty.
  • 1967 With the Weck Surgical Company, developed the first ceiling-mounted zoom ophthalmic surgical microscope that incorporated remotely controlled focusing and centering, planetary tilting and multi-focal illumination. Contemporary surgical microscopes that incorporate Dr. Troutman's concepts continue to be the instruments of choice for ophthalmic microsurgery. They have also been adopted and modified for microsurgery by many other surgical specialties such as vascular, hand, and neurological surgery.
  • 1954–1991 Developed many ophthalmic instruments, including surgical scissors and knives specifically designed to perform new ophthalmic microsurgical techniques.
  • 1970 A founder and past-president of the Castroviejo (Corneal) Society.
  • 1970 Introduced the first of his refractive surgery operations for corneal astigmatism.
  • 1971–1991 Personally trained fellows in his specialty of corneal and refractive microsurgery, funded initially from private sources and by the Hartford Foundation. Since 1978 the Microsurgical Research Foundation has funded fellows.
  • 1976 With his wife, Dr. Suzanne Véronneau, and interested current and former patients, fellows and friends, established the Microsurgical Research Foundation (MRF) to further the education and development of Microsurgery in Ophthalmology.
  • 1977 Dr. Troutman and Dr. Casimir Swinger, his first fellow funded by the MRF, were among the first North American ophthalmologists to be trained in lamellar refractive surgery by Dr. José Barraquer at the Instituto de las Americas in Bogota, Columbia. Drs. Troutman and Swinger were the first to perform and publish Dr. Barraquer's lamellar refractive surgical techniques in the United States.
  • 1980 Dr. Troutman, with Dr. Barraquer and Dr. Swinger, founded the International Society for Refractive Surgery (ISRS) and was named its second president (1982-84). Their pioneering efforts were instrumental in the orderly development of laser refractive surgery (LASIK etc.)
  • 1983 After 27 years, Dr. Troutman took early retirement as head of the Division of Ophthalmology, DMC becoming Professor Emeritus.
  • 1990 Retired from private practice.
  • 1991 Through the MRF, has funded two prizes; the $5,000 Troutman Prize, awarded to the author of the best original article of the year in the official ISRS Journal; and the $10,000 Troutman-Véronneau Prize; awarded at the Biennial meeting of the Pan American Association of Ophthalmology (PAAO) for the most original, previously unpublished clinical or experimental work on either Cornea and/or Corneal Refractive Surgery on behalf of Dr, Troutman or on Strabismus and Amblyopia and/or Strabismus Microsurgery on behalf of Dr. Suzanne Véronneau-Troutman, a world recognized expert in the Field of Ocular Motility and Microsurgery of Strabismus.
  • 2000 Received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the American Academy of Ophthalmology "for many years of distinguished service to the Society" citation and medal. He is one of the first 7 ophthalmologists to receive this award from the AAO.
  • 2000 Received the Lifetime Achievement Award "for distinguished service and achievement in the practice of medicine" from the Ohio State University College of Medicine, from which he graduated in 1945.
  • 2002 The Richard C. Troutman Distinguished Chair in Ophthalmology and Ophthalmic Microsurgery was endowed at SUNY Downstate Medical Center with a $1 million gift from the Microsurgical Research Foundation.

To contribute to the Richard C. Troutman, M.D., Distinguished Chair in Ophthalmology and Ophthalmic Microsurgery Endowment Fund please use our Giving Online page or view other options in Ways to Give.