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Kupfer Steps Down After 30 Years at NIH

NEI director Dr. Carl Kupfer, the only person ever to hold that position, recently stepped down after 30 years at the helm; he is now concentrating on an intramural project at the institute.

"During Dr. Kupfer's long tenure, the NEI has been critical in the shaping of vision research in this country, and his outstanding leadership has contributed enormously to the fabric of the National Institutes of Health," said Dr. Ruth Kirschstein, acting NIH director. "Due to his leadership, NEI research results have made a difference in the lives of millions of Americans. His leadership has made NEI, today, the largest and most comprehensive vision research center in the world."

Dr. Carl Kupfer, the only director NEI has known, recently stepped down from that position.

Kupfer was appointed NEI's first director in January 1970. He moved quickly to identify the needs and opportunities in vision research. He insisted that the area of central visual processing should be part of the NEI mission, and also stressed the importance of the individual research grant as opposed to the more accepted large, umbrella-type program project and center grants. He established an Office of Biometry and Epidemiology and launched the landmark Diabetic Retinopathy Study, setting a standard for modern clinical trials in vision research. He expanded research at NEI by establishing laboratory programs in molecular biology, immunology, neuroscience and molecular genetics.

During Kupfer's tenure, the number of vision researchers nationwide increased steadily. He also oversaw the development of the National Eye Health Education Program, a partnership of about 60 professional, civic and voluntary organizations and government agencies concerned with eye health.

Kupfer served six NIH directors and six U.S. Presidents, and saw the NEI budget grow from $24 million in 1970 to more than $450 million today.

He will not leave NIH entirely; instead, he will devote his time to completing a catalogue of the Cogan Collection, a compilation of clinical cases and pathology reports of more than 50,000 patients. The collection was a major career work of vision researcher Dr. David Cogan, whom Kupfer fondly calls "one of the NEI's greatest supporters and benefactors." Kupfer will also continue to see patients as part of his clinical research activities.

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