The History of Tulane Ophthalmology
Dr. William Burton Clark
In June of 1940, at age 38, Dr. William Burton Clark (1902-1975) succeeded Dr. Buffington as chairman of the Eye Department, serving in that capacity for 13 years. He was the last of the private practitioners to serve as chair on a voluntary basis, as he received no compensation from the University. In the late 1940s Dr. Clark realized that he was unable to devote sufficient time to the chairmanship, and he began searching for a successor. In 1949 he obtained a $50,000 grant from the Schleider Foundation of New Orleans for the development of the Eye Department under his eventual successor, Dr. James Allen.
This was a major turning point in the development of the Tulane Eye Department. Previously, all of the chairmen were part-time, unsalaried, private practitioners who gave generously of their time as a professional obligation. So too did the other members of the faculty, most of whom had an allotted time of service at Charity Hospital; Touro Infirmary; or the Eye, Ear, Nose, and Throat Hospital’s indigent clinic. It was considered an honor and an obligation to donate time and professional skill to the care of indigent patients and to teaching residents.
However, all this changed after World War II. There was an explosion of scientific knowledge, and medical schools sought full-time academicians to develop their residency programs.
Dr. Clark was one of the founders of the Southern Eye Bank of New Orleans and also helped to found the New Orleans Academy of Ophthalmology.
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