Ophthalmologist Orville E. Gordon leaves $150,000 for residents

Terri Gordon (left), widow of Dr. Orville E. Gordon, and Chris Steussy, Mrs. Gordon’s daughter, are welcomed to the Health Science Center by Dr. W.A.J. van Heuven, professor and chairman of the department of ophthalmology.

San Antonio (March 30, 2004) – Ophthalmology residents at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio will perpetually benefit from an approximately $150,000 donation left by Orville E. Gordon, M.D., a distinguished clinical faculty member who died in June 2003.

The Orville E. Gordon Endowment for Ophthalmology will establish the Gordon Library in the department of ophthalmology at the Health Science Center. Gordon Prizes already are awarded to residents making the top three presentations at the annual meeting of the Alamo City Ophthalmology Residents Association.

W.A.J. van Heuven, M.D., professor and chairman of the department of ophthalmology, paid tribute to Dr. Gordon at the resident conference held in March. He recalled that Dr. Gordon was born in 1913 in Chicago to Jewish immigrant parents from Lithuania. He received his medical degree from the University of Illinois Medical School before the outbreak of World War II.

Dr. Gordon served under the illustrious Gen. George S. Patton Jr. on the Tunisian invasion, the Sicilian invasion, the Naples battle, the Rome-Arno battle, the Battle of Southern France, the Rhineland battle and several battles in Central Europe. He was with the unit that liberated the prisoners at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, “which must have been quite an experience for a Jew,” Dr. van Heuven said. He received two Purple Hearts, a Silver battle star, two Bronze battle stars and a Bronze Service arrowhead.

He went on to practice ophthalmology in Chicago and was an attending physician at several hospitals. He also taught anatomy of the eye and orbit at the Northwestern Medical School and later continued this role of educator at the Health Science Center. He also taught at the American Academy of Ophthalmology meetings about the surgical considerations of the orbital facia, “at a time when people were just beginning to figure out the surgical anatomy of the orbit,” Dr. van Heuven said.

Dr. Gordon retired in 1978 to San Antonio and joined the Health Science Center’s clinical faculty. He attended Grand Rounds presentations on campus, taught residents and began attending at the Santa Rosa Low Vision clinic downtown. There he conceived the “macula scope,” a device to measure the vision of macular degeneration patients more accurately. He patented it in 1990. “This instrument has become the foundation for developing more accurate visual acuity measurements for macular degeneration patients, especially to monitor the effect of new drugs on this disease,” Dr. van Heuven said. Dr. Gordon also coined the phrase “fractured vision” to describe the vision of patients with macular degeneration.

Because he loved education and his relationship with Health Science Center faculty and residents, Dr. Gordon wanted to ensure that an endowment existed to support an educational library in the department of ophthalmology. The Gordon Endowment will fund construction of the library, ophthalmology books for faculty and staff to use on a loan basis, and the annual Gordon Prizes at the resident conference.

“This was a wonderful tribute to a man who generously contributed all that he could as a citizen, a husband, a father and a doctor,” said Dr. Gordon’s wife, Terri, who attended the commemorative presentation with her daughter, Chris Steussy.

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