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Alice McPherson ’48, MD’51

Alice McPherson ’48, MD’51, a professor of ophthalmology at Baylor College of Medicine, has promoted new therapies for the treatment of eye disease.

Alice McPherson ’48, MD’51 is one of the foremost vitreoretinal specialists in the world and studied under Dr. Charles Schepens, one of the founders of modern retinal surgery.

In 1960, McPherson moved to Houston to begin practice as the world’s first full-time woman vitreoretinal specialist, and established herself as one of the pioneers in the field. In 1960, she also founded the retina service at Baylor College of Medicine in conjunction with a private practice in retina. She promoted several procedures that are now accepted as basic elements in retinal-detachment surgery and the treatment of diabetic retinopathy.

In 1969, she founded the Retina Research Foundation (RRF) in Houston, Texas, dedicated solely to the eradication of retinal disease. Under her leadership as president and scientific adviser, the RRF has funded more than 1,000 grants and helped to launch the careers of many major vision researchers in the United States and abroad. The RRF has also established chairs and professorships at universities and research institutions, and it has provided advanced subspecialty programs to young scientists who then return to their native countries.

In 2002, her vision, inspiration, and support were critical in the establishment of the McPherson Eye Research Institute (MERI) at UW-Madison. She serves on its advisory board and has seen MERI gain international prominence as a center of excellence for vision research.

McPherson’s many other contributions to the University of Wisconsin are impressive. She served for 12 years on the UW Foundation Board of Directors; she was the founding president of the UW Ophthalmology Alumni Association; and she has been responsible for establishing endowed chairs and lectureships at the university.

McPherson’s numerous honors include receiving an honorary doctor of science degree from UW-Madison in 1997 and serving as commencement speaker in 1995. The UW School of Medicine and Public Health is divided into “houses” for study and social programs, and McPherson House is so named to recognize her contributions. A marble bust and portrait of Alice McPherson now grace the medical school.

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