Top Docs ’10 Profiles: Russell Van Gelder

By Elaine Porterfield

December 31, 1969

Russell Van Gelder, M.D., Ph.D. 

Specialty: Ophthalmology
Practice: UW Medicine Eye Institute at Harborview
Hospital affiliations: Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical Center
Medical degree: Stanford University School of Medicine

How did you decide to specialize in ophthalmology?

I really came around to the eye late in medical school, thanks to a roommate in medical school who went into oncology. He was a year ahead of me. He did a rotation in ophthalmology. He came in and said, “It’s too late for me but it’s not too late for you.” Once I did the rotation, on the second day I thought, “This is what I want to do.” Our ability to actually fix this very delicate organ is just remarkable.

What’s so fascinating about the eye?

The precision of the eye, the incredible physics of what the eye does, the neuroscience of the retina. It’s one of the most beautiful and complex structures in the brain, and it puts it all together to create this incredible sense of vision. It really is such a worthwhile area.

Originally published in July 2010


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