Kupfer, NEIís First Director, Mourned
Dr. Carl Kupfer, who served as director of the National Eye Institute for 30 years, died Apr. 7 after a long illness. He was 83.
Kupfer was appointed the first director of NEI in 1970 after the institute was established by Congress. He was also director of the Fogarty International Center at NIH in 1988. In his time at NEI, he served under six NIH directors and six U.S. presidents. He witnessed the NEI budget grow from $24 million in 1970 to more than $450 million in 2000.
Reflecting on Kupfer’s long and productive career, current NEI director Dr. Paul Sieving said, “Creating an NIH institute from whole cloth is a daunting task. But Carl had a vision for the NEI and persevered to make it a reality. He was one of the first NIH directors to implement strategic planning and much of the institute’s guiding principles were codified in those early plans. He was dedicated to clinical research and the development of clinician scientists. He believed in the primacy of investigator-initiated research and made R01 grants a major part of the NEI research portfolio. The NEI and the vision research community are a lasting legacy of Carl’s 30 years of service.”
Kupfer stepped down as NEI director in 2000 at the age of 72 but remained active in vision research by compiling the Cogan Collection, an online series of clinical cases and pathology reports of more than 6,000 patients in honor of his late colleague Dr. David Cogan, a world renowned ophthalmologist. He also wrote the History of the National Eye Institute, 1968-2000, which chronicled the inception of the institute and its growth during his tenure.
Kupfer expanded the NEI research program to include areas such as molecular biology, immunology, neuroscience and molecular genetics. He also supported the visual processing program within the NEI intramural program, which has become a crown jewel of visual neuroscience.
Basic research also thrived under Kupfer. Investigators identified genes associated with juvenile primary open-angle glaucoma, macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa and retinoblastoma. During his tenure as director, the NEI research portfolio grew to include more than 1,600 investigators at universities, medical centers and research institutions around the U.S.
Kupfer supported public health outreach and oversaw development of the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP), a partnership of professional, civic and volunteer organizations as well as government agencies dedicated to educating the public and professionals about eye health. He referred to NEHEP as a crucial bench-to-bedside project, serving as “a natural extension of our activities in vision research” and “the final step in the research process.”
His presence in the international ophthalmology community led to numerous appointments, including coordinator for the U.S.-Japan Collaborative Agreement in Vision Research and director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for the Prevention of Blindness at NEI. As president of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness from 1982 to 1990, he increased collaboration among non-governmental organizations involved with blindness prevention with the WHO.
The Kupfer Award from the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology was named in his honor and awarded to him in 1993, for his honorable public service on behalf of eye and vision research. In 1997, the Pan American Association of Ophthalmology Carl Kupfer Award for Prevention of Blindness was established in his honor to recognize efforts to increase eye care access for poor and underserved communities.
Kupfer earned his undergraduate degree from Yale University in 1948 and his medical degree in 1952 from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. After completing his internship and assistant residency at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital, he served in the U.S. Air Force for 2 years before returning to the laboratory as a research fellow in ophthalmology at both the Wilmer Eye Institute and Harvard Medical School.
Kupfer is predeceased by his wife, Dr. Muriel “Kim” Isolde Kaiser-Kupfer, a former chief of the NEI Ophthalmic Genetics and Visual Function Branch. He is survived by his children Charles and Sarah, and grandchildren.
Berg Receives Chemical Society’s Public Service Award
NIGMS director Dr. Jeremy Berg (l) is a recipient of the 2011 Public Service Award from the American Chemical Society (ACS). The annual award recognizes outstanding contributions to public service or to the development of public policy that benefits the chemical sciences. Berg was recognized as an advocate for basic research and for his efforts to increase the visibility of chemistry at NIH. Also honored was Dr. Norman P. Neureiter (r), director of the Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The award is the highest for public service from the 161,000-member organization. The ACS presented the awards on Apr. 13 at a Washington, D.C., event held in conjunction with the Council on Undergraduate Research.