Frank W. Newell, MD, 1916-1998

November 18, 1998

Frank William Newell, MD, 82, the James and Anna Raymond Professor Emeritus, former chairman of ophthalmology at the University of Chicago, and one of the field's most renowned practitioners and organizers, died at his Chicago home Wednesday, November 18, 1998. The cause of death was a brain tumor.

Dr. Newell served as president or chairman of nearly every major ophthalmologic organization in the world and founded quite a few of them. Selected examples, listed alphabetically, include: Academica Ophthalmologica Internationalis, president (1980-1984); the American Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology, president (1975); the American Board of Ophthalmology, chairman (1967-1969); the American Medical Association's Section on Ophthalmology, chairman (1964-1965); the Association for Research in Ophthalmology, president and chairman of the board of trustees (1967-1968); and the Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology, one of the organizations that he helped found, president and chairman of the board (1967-1968). There are many others.

"Frank Newell was among the most famous, the most feared and the most fondly remembered ophthalmologists of his generation," said Terry Ernest, MD, PhD, professor and chairman of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University, who was trained by Dr. Newell. "As a physician and as a teacher, Frank did not tolerate any deviation from the highest standards; but as a life-long mentor, colleague, and counselor he was always helpful, congenial, and wise."

Despite his professional accomplishments and clinical skills, Dr. Newell considered himself primarily a teacher and always referred to his office and clinic at the University of Chicago as "school." He wrote or edited more than a dozen textbooks, including eight editions of Ophthalmology: Principles and Concepts, last updated in 1996. He also authored more than 30 book chapters and nearly 200 research and review articles. Newell was also working on a history of ophthalmology.

He was also a prominent editor, serving on the editorial staff or editorial boards of the leading journals in the field and as editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Ophthalmology from 1965 to 1991. Under his leadership, the journal attracted the largest circulation of any ophthalmologic publication in the world.

Frank Newell was born January 14, 1916, in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he grew up. He earned his BS (1938) and MD (1940) from Loyola University in Chicago, and his MS in ophthalmology (1942) from the University of Minnesota. He completed his residency while in the United States Army, attaining the rank of Major and serving as chief of ophthalmology at the 108th General Hospital, in Paris. In 1946 he joined the faculty at Northwestern University.

Dr. Newell came to the University of Chicago in 1953 as section chief of ophthalmology, which was then part of the department of surgery. He became the first chairman when it was made a separate department in 1970 and continued to lead the department until 1981. He became a professor emeritus in 1986.

The winner of many awards, Dr. Newell was perhaps most proud of those from his alma maters: the Cardinal Stritch Medal from Loyola, awarded to a "physician who exhibits high degree of professional competence, resourcefulness, loyalty, benevolence and dedication," and the Outstanding Achievement Award from the University of Minnesota. His many other honors included the Lucien Howe Medal from the American Ophthalmologic Society, the Lang Medal from the Royal Society of Medicine and the Dunnington Medal from the National Society to Prevent Blindness.

Dr. Newell is survived by his wife of 56 years, Marian; his brother, Robert; his children Frank William Newell, Jr., Susan O'Connell, Elizabeth Murphy, and David Newell; and six grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 3:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Friday at the Benson and Park Funeral Home, 3214 W. Montrose, in Chicago. Services will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday at Our Lady of Mercy Church, 4432 N. Troy. In lieu of flowers, contributions should be sent to the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Chicago.

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