Children’s Eye Care partners with Detroit Medical Center to run the Department of Ophthalmology at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan (CHM).
Children’s Hospital of Michigan’s Department of Ophthalmology was officially formed in 1948 when Dr. Cecil Lepard decided there needed to be an eye department separate from the Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat department, and he found a small room (which some have described as a closet) available in the basement of the old Children’s Free Hospital (located on St. Antoine) to become the eye clinic. He was named Chief of Ophthalmology at Children’s Free Hospital in 1948 and continued in the role until 1968. Dr. Lepard, a member of the American Ophthalmological Society, always had a special interest in children’s eye issues although he practiced general ophthalmology – seeing all ages.
In the early years, the clinic was staffed by volunteer faculty which included Drs. Lepard, J. Conrad Gemeroy, Edmund Cooper, James Fry, Ralph Fox, Lawrence Stocker, William Cutler and Sheldon Stern.
Dr. Edmund Cooper was the original pediatric ophthalmologist in Michigan and one of the first in the country. Dr. Cooper had always served a large pediatric population with a special interest in strabismus. He began limiting his practice, somewhere around the late 1950’s or early 1960’s, to only caring for children. Dr. Cooper was the first ophthalmologist in Michigan to offer a post-residency training in pediatric ophthalmology. He was the 10th member to join the Squint Club (a group of strabismus experts).
In 1968, Dr. Gerald Davies was recruited by Dr. Lepard to return to Detroit and become Ophthalmologist-in-Chief at Children’s Hospital. Dr. Davies was the first ophthalmologist at CHM who limited his practice to only children. He was the second surgeon at CHM to do so; Dr. Jack Hertzler, surgeon-in-chief was the first.
Dr. Davies had completed his ophthalmology residency at the University of Michigan, and as part of his training had the opportunity to spend six months in Washington, DC with Dr. Frank Constenbader – the “father” of pediatric ophthalmology. He then went into the Public Health Service charged with evaluating ophthalmology programs for grants and funding. During those two years, he volunteered in Dr. Costenbader’s pediatric ophthalmology clinic at the Washington, DC Children’s Hospital (now Children’s National Medical Center) which was the center of pediatric ophthalmology at the time. The senior staff included Dr. Frank Costenbader and Dr. Marshall Parks.
When Dr. Davies left the Public Health Service, he returned to Detroit in 1968. After returning to Detroit, Dr. Davies spent more than 60% of his working time in the CHM eye clinic. His other time was used to create a clinic in Dearborn, MI.
Children’s Hospital of Michigan moved to the new hospital on Beaubien in March of 1971. In 1972, John D. Baker, MD joined Dr. Davies’s practice. The eye clinic remained in the Couzens Memorial Clinic building for several years. Eventually the old hospital was torn down and the clinic building was sold to become part of a charter school.
Dr. Davies died (in a drowning accident in 1978) just 10 years after returning to Detroit. During his short career, he raised pediatric eye care to a new level in the region. During this time, CHM’s pediatric ophthalmology staff included Drs. Conrad Giles, John Baker, Robert McDonald, William Cutler and Sheldon Stern.
Dr. John “Jack” Baker became interim chief until 1980 when Dr. Matthew Rabinowicz was recruited from the University of Florida to become CHM’s Chief of Ophthalmology.
Drs. Rabinowicz, Baker, Cukrowski, Giles and McDonald staffed the clinic. They trained ophthalmology residents from Receiving Hospital, Harper Hospital, Grace Hospital and eventually Detroit Osteopathic Hospital in CHM’s ophthalmology clinic.
In 1985, Dr. Rabinowicz was replaced as Chief of Ophthalmology by Drs. Baker and Giles who served as co-chiefs of the department. The pediatric ophthalmology clinic moved to the University Outpatient Building connected to Receiving Hospital and remained there until 1991. The programs at Grace Hospital and Harper Hospital joined the Receiving Hospital program to become one program at Kresge Eye Institute. While their volume decreased while in the University Outpatient Building, this department taught all of the residents from Kresge Eye Institute, Sinai Hospital and Detroit Osteopathic Hospital.
In 1991, the Carl’s Outpatient Building (located on Beaubien Blvd) opened and all of the Children’s Hospital of Michigan clinics, including the ophthalmology clinic, moved back into the hospital. A space for pediatric ophthalmology was specifically designed to expand on the mission to enhance pediatric clinical eye care and teaching ophthalmology residents. The eye clinic was built on the west side of the first floor off the hospital’s lobby and still remains there. There was a significant growth in children coming to the clinic for eye care. The educational mission of the clinic expanded with ophthalmology residents from all of the residencies in metropolitan Detroit now having rotations there to learn pediatric ophthalmology. The program at Sinai Hospital merged with Kresge Eye Institute. Ophthalmology residents from William Beaumont Hospital, the Detroit Osteopathic ophthalmology consortium, Henry Ford Hospital as well as Kresge Eye Institute residents all rotated through the eye clinic at Children’s Hospital of Michigan. The faculty consisted of Drs, Baker, Giles, Cukrowski, McDonald and Dr. John Roarty.
In this same year, the department also created a Pediatric Ophthalmology Fellowship program and became accredited by Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology Fellowship Compliance Committee.
In 1999, Dr. Baker became the solo Chief of the Department of Ophthalmology. The department was staffed by Drs. Cukrowski, Giles, McDonald, Roarty as well as Drs. Brian Bachynski, Patrick Dennehey and Rajesh Rao.
In 2002, Dr. Lisa Bohra became the first woman to join the Department of Ophthalmology at Children’s Hospital of Michigan.
In 2004, Dr. Baker stepped down as Chief of Ophthalmology when he took over the position of Chairman of Children’s Hospital of Michigan’s Board of Trustees.
Dr. John Roarty, who had completed a Master’s of Public Health in Epidemiology and a pediatric residency prior to completing an ophthalmology residency, ocular pathology fellowship and pediatric ophthalmology fellowship, became Chief of Ophthalmology in 2004. He remained Chief of Ophthalmology until 2020. Over those years, the department was staffed by Drs. Roarty, Bachynski, Baker, Bohra, Dennehey, Giles, Rao as well as Drs. Leemor Rotberg, Elena Gianfermi, Reecha Bahl and Alexandra Apkarian. In addition to them, Dr. Steven Dunn (cornea specialist) and Dr. Michael Trese (pediatric retina specialist) assisted the department with caring for children with cornea and retinal issues.
In September 2020, Dr. Lisa Bohra was named Chief of Ophthalmology at Children’s Hospital of Michigan. This clinic is currently staffed by attendings from Children’s Eye Care and Kresge Eye Institute. Children’s Hospital of Michigan’s Department of Ophthalmology also currently has two orthoptists, Mary DeYoung-Smith and Stephen Burwell, that assist with clinical care and the teaching of ophthalmology residents from four different institutions. In the 2020-2021 academic year, the department accepted its 21st fellow with Dr. Leemor Rotberg serving as the Fellowship Director.
The department currently sees more than 7,000 patients annually and proudly partners with the following hospital systems to help train their ophthalmology residents in pediatric eye care: Henry Ford Health System, Kresge Eye Institute, St. John’s Medical Center and William Beaumont Hospital.