By Alexandra Brodin
Scheie Vision Summer 2020
A Philadelphia native, Myron Yanoff, MD, has a lifelong history with the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). Dr. Yanoff’s father went to UPenn as an undergraduate and earned his medical degree from the Perelman School of Medicine. Dr. Yanoff recalled that his family had season tickets to UPenn football, and he enjoyed going to games as a teenager.
Like his father, Dr. Yanoff attended UPenn for his Bachelor’s degree, and he began attending the Perelman School of Medicine at just 20 years old. He went on to complete residencies in ophthalmology and in pathology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He continued to train in both areas, completing a retina fellowship at the Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia and a pathology fellowship at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, D.C.
As a medical student, Dr. Yanoff originally intended to practice as a family doctor, but he changed course when he became interested in ophthalmology. Because of his rotation schedule, his passion for studying the eye nearly went undiscovered. Dr. Yanoff recalled, “When I started my senior year at Penn in medical school, my first three months were away on rotation. I wasn’t in the city. That’s when all of the ophthalmology lectures were given by Dr. Scheie. So when I returned, I decided to take an elective with Dr. Scheie. I also took an elective at the Wills Eye Hospital. And I just fell in love with the specialty.”
Following his fellowships, Dr. Yanoff returned to the University of Pennsylvania as faculty. He went on to serve as Chairman of the Ophthalmology Department and Director of the Scheie Eye Institute from 1978 to 1987. He received the Senior Distinguished U.S. Scientist Award (Humboldt Research Award) in 1988.
As a clinical ophthalmologist, Dr. Yanoff was often able to make an immediate positive impact on patients. “It’s a happy specialty,” he explained. “People have cataracts and are partially blind, and the next day they’re seeing.” For example, he recalled performing cataract surgery on a Philadelphia musician. The singer sat up from the operating table, looked around the room, and burst out in a rendition of the classic song, “I Can See Clearly Now.”
In addition to his outstanding clinical care, Dr. Yanoff has made vital and lasting contributions to research in ophthalmology. He has authored/edited over 45 textbooks on ophthalmology, eye histology, and eye pathology. During his tenure as Chairman of Ophthalmology, he brought about two major departmental changes. First, he made the Department a multi-specialty institution by recruiting over a dozen ophthalmologists from different specialties, such as cornea, glaucoma, and oculoplastic surgery. He also brought the Scheie Eye Institute under the umbrella of the Clinical Practices of the University of Pennsylvania (CPUP).
Dr. Yanoff is now retired from clinical practice, but he remains active in ophthalmic scholarship. He is currently writing the sixth edition of Ophthalmology, a seminal text that covers nearly all ophthalmic conditions and procedures. The fifth edition of this book has recently been translated into Spanish. Dr. Yanoff also serves as Editor-in-Chief of Advances in Ophthalmology and Optometry, a journal that reviews current practices in ophthalmology as well as optometry, and Practice Update, an online weekly journal featuring articles selected by leading experts in different fields. Outside of work, Dr. Yanoff enjoys spending time with his grandchildren and pursuing new hobbies, such as painting.
Dr. Yanoff and his family at a reunion.