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Charles Kelman, MD, father of phaco, dies

Charles D. Kelman, MD, best known as the father of phacoemulsification, died Tuesday, June 1, of lung cancer at a hospice center in Boca Raton, FL. He was 74.

Dr. Kelman, clinical professor of ophthalmology, New York Medical College, was awarded the National Medal of Technology for his phaco technique for cataract removal by President George H.W. Bush in 1992. Last month he was inducted in the National Inventors Hall of Fame, Akron, OH.

The idea for the phaco procedure came to Dr. Kelman after a visit to his dentist's office when he had his teeth cleaned with an ultrasonic device. He devised the technique using a similar vibrating ultrasonic tip to break up the cataract and then remove it by suction using a small needle. The procedure was introduced in 1967.

Dr. Kelman also pioneered cryoextraction of cataracts and the use of freezing for the repair of retinal detachments.

The American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) named Dr. Kelman as one of the most influential ophthalmologists of the 20th century. He delivered the ASCRS Innovator's Lecture in 1985, the ASCRS Binkhorst Lecture in 1989, and was inducted into the ASCRS Ophthalmology Hall of Fame in 1999. In Dr. Kelman's honor, the ASCRS Executive Committee renamed the Innovator's Lecture Award to the Charles D. Kelman Innovator's Lecture. He also served as president of the ASCRS from 1995 to 1997.

He is survived by his wife, Ann, and five children.

A detailed history of Dr. Kelman's accomplishments will be covered in the June 15 issue of Ophthalmology Times.

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