Susan H. Day, MD
Grateful thanks to AAO contributor, M. Bruce Shields, MD
Susan H. Day, MD is well known to Barkan members, first as a graduate of the residency program and as time unfolded, a member of the faculty and department Chair. A native of Louisiana, she received her MD at LSU, completed her residency at CPMC, going on to complete fellowships in pediatric ophthalmology and strabismus at The Hospital for Sick Children in London, with David Taylor, and at the University of Iowa, with Dr. Bill Scott. After serving at King Khaled Eye Specialty Hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, she joined the faculty at CPMC.
She became the residency program director in 1997 and was appointed chair of the department three years later in 2000. She recalls the serendipity of entering “the elite worlds of Drs. Bob Shaffer, Bruce Spivey, Bill Spencer, Art Jampolsky, Alan Scott and Bob Stamper” who helped shape her career. Notably, along the way, Dr. Jerry Bettman, former department chair advised that “everyone needs repotting times,” advice she has followed, forging a unique career.
During her years in ophthalmology, Dr. Day rose to international prominence as a clinician and surgeon, an educator, administrator, and a leader. She was the first woman to serve as president of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and is a member of the American Ophthalmological Society, American University Professors in Ophthalmology and the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. She has served as chair or member of numerous other organizations and committees.
Dr. Day has been in constant demand nationally and internationally as a visiting professor and guest lecturer, which includes seventeen named lectures. She has published extensively in her field of pediatric ophthalmology and strabismus and has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the AOS Lucien Howe Medal, the Academy and AAPOS Lifetime Achievement Awards and the Academy’s EnergEYES Award.
After 14 years of wearing two hats as both Program Director and Chair, she changed direction in 2014, leaving San Francisco to accept a leadership position at the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) in Chicago. With a passion for medical ethics, education, standard-setting, and quality assurance in health care both nationally and internationally, she helped other countries create their accreditation programs. She soon learned that graduate medical education internationally is “the wild, wild west,” with widely disparate standards, and that there was a great need for her services. Over the next six years, she would travel 250,000 to 300,000 miles annually to countries around the world: from Vietnam to Saudi Arabia, Guatemala to Finland, Singapore to Haiti and many more.
After retiring from ACGME in 2021, Dr. Bettman’s “repotting” advice seemed prescient. Day chose an entirely new challenge after being accepted to study music at the prestigious Schulich School of Music of McGill University in Toronto Canada. She is currently immersed there in playing the flute. At an early age, she began to study piano, play the flute and sing in her church choir. It turned out that her early experience in music may have been what led her to consider a career in medicine after a female pediatrician in the choir took the young Day under her wing.
And now, as Dr. Day contemplates yet another repotting, her thoughts return to her love of music, but this time to combine it with her passion for medicine. Throughout her career in ophthalmology and medical education, music remained an important part of her life. During medical school, she played in a woodwind quintet and later joined a group of ophthalmology musicians who provided noontime concerts for many years during the Academy’s annual meetings. Her most memorable musical experience came in 1982, when she performed Mozart’s D major concerto in Davies Hall with the San Francisco Symphony
“I would like to take on a project where both disciplines are essential to make a contribution,” she said. “Specifically, I’d like to explore how musical aptitude develops in people with congenital blindness.” She will continue to play the flute and learn piano to a greater depth, but as for singing, she says, “That will most likely be limited to leading choruses of Happy Birthday.”