Richard L. Abbott, MD

Resident 1974-1977
Bruce E. Spivey, MD, Chair

Richard Abbot
Richard L. Abbot, MD

Thomas W. Boyden Professor Emeritus Cornea and External Diseases, UCSF Department of Ophthalmology Research Associate, Francis I. Proctor Foundation, Secretary-General, Academia Ophthalmologica Internationalis. Recipient of 8 national and international awards and medals.

A colleague of Bob Stamper told me about this new program and its well-trained, youthful faculty some of whom I met in the spring of 1973 in the old Stanford Cooper-Lane building on Webster Street. I remember meeting Drs. Spivey, Stamper, Cavender, and Cleasby, as well as Sam East and Bill Stewart, two of my future co-residents. At that time, there was no resident match in place, and I recall receiving a call from Bob Stamper, shortly after returning to New Mexico, inviting me to join the residency, beginning in July 1974. Since this was the time when many young physicians were being drafted into the military, our group of residents tended to be a few years older than later groups and most of us were already married and had children. This built a unique bond among our group and many of us have remained good friends to this day.

I recall doing a few cases with Bruce during my first year; strabismus and enucleation, using the Spivey implant. Bruce was an excellent surgeon and teacher, and unfortunately, he had to limit his surgical time due to other responsibilities. Ed Tamler was a mainstay to our learning cataract surgery. He would painstakingly take us through each step of the surgery, teaching us intracapsular surgical techniques at the time. Making rounds on Jampolsky strabismus pre-op cases each week with Sam East, our chief resident, was an unforgettable teaching experience for me. I fondly recall doing my first corneal transplant with Dave Vastine. Highland Hospital, which had been added as a new rotation, gave all of us an invaluable experience with ocular trauma. I followed Rich Lee and Paul Tornambe. Alan Harley was the first resident to serve at Highland.

During my 2nd year, Bill Spencer joined the full-time teaching faculty, and he became one of my most important mentors in helping direct me towards an academic career. We wrote and published several papers together and I was grateful for the ophthalmic pathology he taught me, and he used many of my clinical photos in his classic ophthalmic pathology textbook.

At the beginning of my 3rd year, my interests in ophthalmology strongly turned to the cornea. Through the influence and support of Dave Vastine, Bob Webster, and Max Fine. I obtained a Fellowship in Cornea at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, followed by a visiting fellowship at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary with Claes Dohlman. Upon completion of my fellowships, I returned to SF to join Pacific Ophthalmic Consultants and, in time, became Director of the Cornea Service for the department.

Through Bruce’s encouragement, influence, and a bit of arm twisting, I then studied refractive surgery and developed both the incisional and laser refractive surgery service at CPMC. We lead several FDA clinical trials and taught courses in refractive surgery for the Northern California community. In 1995, I was recruited to UCSF as a Full Professor to become Co-Director of Corneal and Refractive Surgery and lead the academic and research development of new technology in this field.

Through the influence of my many teachers and colleagues at CPMC, I became involved in the AAO and other ophthalmic national and international organizations. Specifically, Bruce Spivey, opened many doors for me throughout my career and I am indebted to his initial and ongoing support of my career. In looking back at my 40+ year career, I feel I could not have been better prepared and feel grateful for the support and lifelong friendships that developed during my time spent at CPMC.