Highly regarded as a clinician, teacher and mentor, Robert Webster’s career has been centered upon our San Francisco residency. Born in Los Angeles, he was raised in Burlingame, received his undergraduate degree from Stanford and his MD from Stanford Medical School in San Francisco.
Intending to specialize in cardiac surgery he found himself instead drafted into the US Army MASH unit during the Korean War. There he discovered that there was only one ophthalmologist for 36,000 GIs which piqued his interest in eye surgery. After his return to San Francisco his medical school mentor secured a place in the residency for him by phoning Dr. Jerry Bettman. “That phone call was my application,” he recalls, “it was a far cry from today’s application process!”
After his residency he went on to Harvard’s Mass Eye and Ear to complete a fellowship under the legendary Dr. Claes Dohlman. Back in San Francisco and serving initially as an unofficial Chief of Cornea, he assembled a faculty which was the envy of many large university-based programs, attracting notable teachers including his early mentor, Dr. Max Fine, along with Drs. Ben Picetti, Bruce Osler, and a constant parade of notables associated with the Proctor Foundation. Dr Webster’s enthusiasm for his subspecialty was contagious with cornea/ external disease clearly one of the most popularly sought fellowships by CPMC grads. Webster also sponsored a cornea fellowship in his practice, training 21 fellows in 20 years, assisted by Dr. Rich Abbott.
Webster, along with his classmate and long-time friend, Dr. Wayne Fung founded the practice known as Pacific Ophthalmic Consultants. According to Dr. Susan Day, “Bob showed all the value of and joy of private practice as well as its compatibility with fulfilling the mission of teaching others. He was generous in allowing residents to understand life beyond medicine.”
Dr. Harry Flynn, who holds the J. Donald M. Gass Distinguished Chair in Ophthalmology at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute who completed a Retina Fellowship at CPMC recalls, “I had the privilege of occasionally assisting him on corneal transplant surgery and learning from him during many lectures as well as “every day clinical care” of patients in his office. Bob was a great friend to the house-staff and to all of his colleagues.
The concept of “legacy” is a defining part of Bob Webster’s career. He views a legacy as both a precious gift received from teachers, and colleagues and a gift to share teaching others. Webster, along with Drs. Jerry Bettman and Bruce Spivey formed the early leadership team that created Pacific Vision Foundation in 1977 with the goal of providing financial support for the residency. He served as President of PVF for its first 10 years and remains an active member of the foundation’s Board of Trustees. Truly his legacy is a lasting tribute to his commitment and affection for our residency program.