Robert S. Jampel, M.D., Ph.D., has dedicated his career to ensuring that all people have access to quality eye care. As director of the Kresge Eye Institute for more than two decades, he helped establish the international reputation for excellence the institute now enjoys.
The success of the Kresge Eye Institute at Wayne State University is due to Dr. Jampel's past leadership and to his ongoing philanthropy. In recognition of his accomplishments at the university and his commitment to ophthalmology, the Kresge Eye Institute dedicated its auditorium in his name June 14, during its 58th annual clinical conference.
"Dr. Jampel is a great doctor, leader and philanthropist," said Mark Juzych, M.D., M.H.S.A., current director of the Kresge Eye Institute. "We are dedicating this auditorium in his name to recognize his passion for medical education and his leadership during a transformative period in the history of the Kresge Eye Institute."
Presiding over the naming of the auditorium was especially meaningful for Dr. Juzych, a former student of Dr. Jampel. A 1989 graduate of the Wayne State University School of Medicine, as well as an alumnus of Kresge Eye Institute's residency program, Dr. Juzych described Dr. Jampel as a mentor. "I learned from him the importance of compassion toward patients," he said.
Dr. Jampel found inspiration for medicine as a young boy growing up in New York. He spent time observing his uncle, who was a physician. "I lived in the Bronx, and travelled to his practice in Brooklyn," Dr. Jampel said. "It was a poor neighborhood and on Saturdays he would take me along on his house calls. I was fascinated by what he was doing."
A bright young man, Dr. Jampel went on to earn his bachelor's degree at Columbia University while training to be a naval officer through the rigorous V-12 college training program. He then received a medical degree from Columbia and completed residencies in ophthalmology and neurology at the University of Michigan. In addition, he obtained a doctoral degree in neuroanatomy. During his training there he met his wife, Joan.
While Dr. Jampel was living in Ann Arbor, the Korean War began and he was recalled to duty by the Navy. Dr. Jampel served as a neurologist and quickly gained responsibility for an entire ward of wounded young men at the Bethesda Naval Hospital. "I learned fast," he remembered. After the war was over, he returned to Michigan to complete his medical training.
Dr. Jampel began his career in ophthalmology in New York at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. In 1970, Wayne State recruited him to join its faculty. He was appointed chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and director of the Kresge Eye Institute. Throughout his 24 years in that role, Dr. Jampel would lead the institute's transformation and significant growth.
The Kresge Eye Institute was founded in 1948 to bring together physicians and scientists in a collaborative effort to preserve eyesight. With its combined focus on excellent patient care, rigorous medical education and groundbreaking research, the institute became a leader in the field of ophthalmology. It has been a part of Wayne State's School of Medicine since 1966.
When Dr. Jampel arrived to lead the institute, Detroit's hospitals were managing three separate residencies in ophthalmology. Dr. Jampel successfully integrated these residency programs into a single Kresge Eye Institute program under the direction of the chair of ophthalmology. He increased the residents' clinical exposure, initiated regular clinical conferences and began weekly grand rounds for residents and staff.
To further advance the institute's mission, Dr. Jampel recruited a distinguished faculty of clinicians and scientists. He developed a clinical practice with those full-time faculty members, forming the first multi-specialty ophthalmic group practice in Detroit. Patient visits to the institute quickly grew from a few hundred in 1972 to 50,000. In 1974, a separate Kresge Eye Institute building, adjacent to Harper Hospital, opened.
By the mid-1980s it was obvious that more space was needed. Dr. Jampel led a fundraising campaign for a new building at Hutzel Hospital. The new building, which is three times larger than the previous structure, officially opened in 1990 and still houses the institute.
In addition to his many administrative duties Dr. Jampel continued to perform research and to teach medical students, something he loves. He said it is greatly satisfying when former students tell him that they remember something he said. "Ophthalmology is important," Dr. Jampel said. "Eyesight is quality of life."
In 1994, Dr. Jampel retired from the chairmanship of the department and was succeeded by Gary Abrams, M.D., as director of the Kresge Eye Institute. Under Dr. Abrams' leadership there were more than 100,000 patient visits and nearly 5,000 surgical procedures annually. In 2012, Dr. Jampel received the appointment of chairman emeritus.
Since 2011, the institute has been led by Dr. Juzych, who continues to pursue the mission of excellence of the Kresge Eye Institute.