Dan Albert MD
Much is known about the individuals credited with establishing the subspeciality of Pediatric Ophthalmology, Frank D. Costenbader, M.D. and his first “Fellow” and collaborator, Marshall M. Parks, M.D. They are credited with establishing and nurturing the Department of Ophthalmology at the Childrens Hospital of DC, (as it was known at the time), which led to the recognition of Pediatric Ophthalmology, first locally, then nationally and internationally. A third member of the Department deserves significant credit in nurturing that growth. Dan G. Albert, M.D. was a man of inventiveness and a willingness to challenge accepted wisdom which was combined with a warm and embracing personality and a wicked sense of humor. It was Dan’s personality that contributed, in large part, to the character of the Costenbader Society that is still felt to this day.
Dan was born in Dansville, New York on May 20, 1915. He was a reluctant student and would have been diagnosed with dyslexia had he been born three generations later. He graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in Optometry, served in the US Army as a corpsman during the Second World War and, realizing his limitations as an Optometrist, enrolled and graduated from the Upstate Medical School in Syracuse, New York, with an MD degree. He completed an Ophthalmology residency at the Episcopal Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital in Washington DC (Now the Washington Medical Center) where he met Dr Costenbader and joined him when Dr Parks left to start his own practice.
Many of the practices that we take for granted today were the product of Dan’s questioning mind and willingness to find a “better way”. It was Dan who suggested, and ultimately succeeded in eliminating, bandaging both children’s eyes after strabismus surgery which had been standard practice at that time. It was Dan who decreased the post operative hospital time from days to hours so children could return to the less stressful home environment. It was Dan who encouraged parents to be with their children prior to surgery as long as possible which, ultimately, led to willing parents being in the operating room to comfort their children during the induction. All of these improvements, which are so obvious to us, were considered radical at the time and were accomplished with considerable effort.
Dan developed the superior fornix approach for strabismus surgery at about the same time that Marshall Parks developed the inferior fornix approach. The superior approach is a bit more awkward to perform and is not widely accepted but is a useful technique to learn.
He, along with Phillip Knapp, M.D., was instrumental in our understanding of and surgery for the A- and V- patterns of strabismus. At first, he wanted to call the A- pattern, the TeePee pattern, befitting his prowess as an outdoorsman but, eventually, he agreed to use the term, A- pattern.
Dan was instrumental in improving our understanding of orbital blow out fractures and improved the surgery for blepharoptosis.
It was his suggestion that began the Childrens Eye Care Foundation which was organized to support the Children’s Hospital Pediatric Ohthalmology Fellowship before the Foundation developed national aspirations.
It was Dan and his wife, Lois, and their warm personalities, that welcomed and enfolded new Fellows and lead to the Fellows’ continued support of the Ohthalmology Department of the Childrens Hospital National Medical Center. None could resist a day with Dan in his office followed by an evening at the nearby Albert home with martinis, oysters, Smithfield ham and conversation.
Dan Albert never desired credit for these and many other accomplishments yet he, along with Frank Costenbader and Marshall Parks, stands in the forefront of our local heroes.
Dan passed on at age 75 in August, 1990 and is buried at St Paul’s Mission, Westmoreland County, Virginia, surrounded by a vineyard and exposed to the breezes off his beloved Potomac River.