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Charles David Kelman

Born 1930
Died 2004

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American ophthalmic surgeon, Born May 23, 1930, Brooklyn, N.Y., Died June 1, 2004, Boca Raton, Florida.

Biography of Charles David Kelman

Charles David Kelman was a man of many talents, described as a true renaissance man. He was a pioneering eye surgeon and a talented musician. He played the saxophone in concert with Dizzy Gillespie and performed at Carnegie Hall. He wrote a musical and had an album released by Columbia Records, and even produced Broadway musicals. An accomplished pilot, Kelman often flew his helicopter to the Lydia E. Hall Hospital in Freeport, New York from his Long Island Home.

Charles David Kelman was born in Brooklyn, New York to David and Eva (Gelles) Kelman. He grew up in Queens where he attended Forest Hills High School. After graduation, he attended Boston's Tufts University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree, then completed his medical studies at the University of Geneva were he obtrained his M.D. degree in 1956. He then interned at the Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn. He then completed his ophthalmology residency training at The Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia, Pa. In 1960, he entered the private practice of ophthalmology.

Kelman was Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at New York Medical College and an Attending Surgeon at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary and Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital.

Kelman was a prolific inventor. In 1962, he invented the cryoprobe, an instrument that freezes cataracts before removal, making cataract extraction a less traumatic task. Eight years later, his forward-thinking style enabled him to make the ophthalmic discovery of the century while sitting in a dentist's chair. As a dental probe pulsates through the hard surface of tooth enamel, he reasoned, ultrasound vibrations could be used to break up a clouded lens. Phacoemulsification, as the technique is called, was the first of the minimally invasive techniques, and the stimulus for small incision surgery, including gall bladder, lumpectomy, vertebral disc surgery and other surgical applications.

Kelman introduced his technique that uses ultrasonic waves in 1967. This new surgery removed the need for an extended hospital stay and made the surgery less painful. It has helped 100 million people nation-wide. He was a co-founder of the International Retinal Research Foundation, along with longtime friend and colleague, Alston Callahan.

Charles David Kelman died of lung cancer in Boca Raton, Florida in 2004. He was survived by his wife Ann and their five children.

Kelman was posthumously awarded the 2004 Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research for having revolutionized the surgical removal of cataracts; he turned a 10-day hospital stay into an outpatient procedure and dramatically reduced surgical complications.

We thank William Charles Caccamise Sr MD; and Patrick Jucker-Kupper, Switzerland, for information submitted.

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