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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.
The 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.
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
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.