Arthur Rosenbaum, 1940-2010

July 15, 2010

A pioneering eye surgeon who proved highly effective at treating cross-eyed children but was subjected to abuse and attacks by animal-rights campaigners has died.

Arthur Rosenbaum was born on 20 August 1940 in St Louis, Missouri, US. His father was also an ophthalmologist. He studied at the University of Michigan before returning to St Louis for a medical degree at Washington University.

After short periods working in San Francisco and Bethesda, Maryland, Dr Rosenbaum moved to the Jules Stein Eye Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, to complete his residency in 1972.

He was awarded fellowships in several different aspects of paediatric ophthalmology and was appointed to the faculty the following year. He spent the rest of his career at UCLA, and even died there, passing away at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

After rising to the position of chief of paediatric ophthalmology and strabismus at the institute in 1980, Dr Rosenbaum was appointed vice-chair of ophthalmology at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine in 1990.

In 2008, he became the Brindell and Milton Gottlieb professor of paediatric ophthalmology. In a rare honour, the donors insisted that the chair should bear Dr Rosenbaum's name after his death.

Over and above his academic achievements, Dr Rosenbaum was a surgeon of exceptional ability and ingenuity, often consulted by colleagues across the US. He corrected the vision of more than 10,000 strabismatic - or "cross-eyed" - children. He was an early exponent of the use of Botox in eye surgery and explored electrical means of reactivating muscles that had become frozen.

Dr Rosenbaum proved particularly inventive in devising a technique for swapping muscles around in patients suffering from a congenital condition known as Duane's syndrome, most commonly characterised by the inability of the eye to abduct or move outwards.

In 1978, Dr Rosenbaum met his future wife, Sandra Burick, an expert in child development, when he performed surgery on her three-year-old son, Steven. She later joined his unit to help child patients and their parents prepare psychologically for surgery and to raise funds to give poorer families access to treatment.

Although he had carried out little research on animals, Dr Rosenbaum became a target for activists, who on one occasion put a crude firebomb under his car.

He responded by saying he was no longer involved in animal research while insisting it could deliver essential medical benefits.

Dr Rosenbaum died of a long cancer-related illness on 22 June 2010 and is survived by his wife and stepson.

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