2018 Lifetime Achievement Award: Dr. William Culbertson

Dr. Culbertson has spent his career at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute where he holds the Higgins Chair of Ophthalmology. He is the director of both the cornea service and the refractive surgery service at Bascom Palmer.

 Dr Culbertson attended college and medical school at Emory University. Following residency at Vanderbilt University Eye Institute, he performed fellowships in cornea and external diseases at Bascom Palmer in 1978-79 and at the Proctor Foundation in 1979-80. There he studied the histopathology of radial keratotomy incisions in primates and noted the epithelial ingrowth and poor wound healing inherent in RK. After joining the faculty of the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, he became a co-investigator in the PERK study that revealed the consequent hyperopia that occurred due to stretching of the poorly healed corneal incisions. 

From 1980 to 1994, refractive surgery at Bascom Palmer was limited to corneal incisional procedures. With the advent of the excimer laser, Dr Culbertson directed the establishment of the Bascom Palmer Refractive Surgery Center in 1994 with the acquisition of a VISX Star laser. This center has grown to six lasers, 5 surgeons and 4 corneal fellows. 

Over the next 15 years, he was an investigator in the major laser trials for wavefront guided myopic and hyperopic treatment, conductive keratoplasty, femtosecond laser corneal and refractive surgery and most recently the SMILE procedure for myopia. 

He has also been involved in discoveries and treatment of infectious retinitis, the initial corneal endothelial transplantation techniques and the development of the Catalys fs cataract laser. His current research interest is in magnetized cultured corneal endothelial transplantation, atomized micro-drop drug application devices and novel topical scar and inflammation inhibitors for the cornea. 

He is most proud of his participation in the training of over 110 corneal fellows, many of whom have gone on to splendid clinical and academic careers. 

His hobbies are sailing his boat “Aqueous Humor” and playing “grumpy old men” tennis on Saturday mornings.

I have since retired from refractive surgery and it is a great pleasure for me to know that my efforts have been appreciated by international and national peer review groups as well (United Kingdom and Ireland Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons (2015 Lifetime achievement award) .