McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Witelson prize advances student's interest in ophthalmology

FHS Advancement
Published: June 21 , 2007
Megan Dunlop-Elms, Noah Vale, Sandra F. Witelson and Dr. John T. Harvey
Megan Dunlop-Elms, Hamilton Health Sciences Foundation; Noah Vale, 2006 Witelson Memorial Prize winner; professor Sandra F. Witelson, and Dr. John T. Harvey, professor and head of the Division of Ophthalmology at McMaster University. Photo courtesy of Megan Dunlop-Elms.

Second-year medical student Noah Vale is even more determined to pursue a career that will advance the field of ophthalmology, after being awarded the Dr. Henry Chaim Witelson Memorial Prize in Ophthalmology.

The prize has been awarded for the past eight years to encourage more students to enter the field of ophthalmology and contribute to the exciting new developments in clinical care and research in a rapidly changing medical/surgical specialty.

Vale, who is now finishing up the second year of the three-year Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine undergraduate program, was able to hone his fine motor skills in microsurgery and histology of the eye through an elective taught by Judith West-Mays, an associate professor in pathology and molecular medicine.

The course provided Vale with exposure to the world of molecular genetics, clinical research and their relationship to ophthalmology.

"Through this elective I have gained valuable practical skills, as well as an appreciation of clinical and laboratory research, and some insight in relevant disease processes," said Vale. "Receiving the Witelson Memorial Prize has further motivated me in my pursuit of a career in ophthalmology."

Dr. Henry Witelson, former Chief of Ophthalmology for the Hamilton Civic Hospitals, died in 1997. He was a devoted clinician to thousands of patients in the Hamilton region and beyond since 1969, and was founding director of the Wentworth Eye Foundation in 1979. 

Witelson's family and friends created the prize to honour his memory and work. The prize is administered by the Hamilton Health Sciences Foundation, and awarded to medical students to enable them to learn about ophthalmology and participate in preserving and restoring eyesight. Recipients can use the funds to travel to eye clinics within Canada or work with non-profit organizations that provide eye care to Third World countries.

While the initial aim of the prize was to spark an interest in the field of ophthalmology, the results have exceeded these expectations. To date five of the winners have secured residencies in this highly competitive specialty.

One of the driving forces in establishing the prize was Witelson's spouse, Sandra Witelson, a world-renowned expert in the study of the brain, who holds the Albert Einstein/Irving Zucker Chair in Neuroscience, and is a professor in the Department Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences.

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