The doctors at the Glaucoma Center of San Francisco are teachers at the University of California, Stanford University, California Pacific Medical Center, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and invited lecturers at many universities around the world. They are pioneers in the development of automated perimetry, laser treatment, surgical techniques, and new drugs for glaucoma, as well as diagnosing and treating the myriad forms of glaucoma in both the young and the aged. But more than anything, they are doctors whose focus is serving people, not just patients.
At the heart of the Glaucoma Center of San Francisco is the memory of
Dr. Robert N. Shaffer. Dr. Shaffer was hand-picked by the head of the
department of ophthalmology at UCSF to study glaucoma when both he and
glaucoma were new to ophthalmology. Dr. Shaffer learned about congenital
(childhood) glaucoma from the expert at the time, Dr. Otto Barkan. He
then started a clinic at UCSF for the specialty in 1942. That year,
Dr. Shaffer also broadened his teaching emphasis by serving as a Diplomat
(and later as Consultant and Secretary-Treasurer) of the American Board
of Ophthalmology. In 1961, he co-authored the quintessential text on
glaucoma, Diagnosis and Therapy of the Glaucomas, now in its
In 1941 Dr. Warren Horner asked Dr. Shaffer to join him in practice at 490 Post Street, anticipating that he would be called to war and would need someone to keep his practice going while he was away. Dr. Horner served in WWII from 1942-1945 and died in 1949, leaving Dr. Shaffer with the 490 Post Street office. By that time, Dr. Shaffer had distinguished himself as among the great early leaders in glaucoma, along with Dr. Bernard Becker (St. Louis) and Dr. W. Morton Grant (Boston). Dr. Shaffer was highly respected as a great diagnostician and known to ‘lead by example’. He had a strong belief that research should be useful and significant to patient care. Dr. Shaffer was patient-oriented, a doctor known to be extremely ethical and credible in every aspect of his practice and his life. These are the building blocks on which the Glaucoma Center of San Francisco still stands and that has upheld it as the leading glaucoma practice in California for 70 years.
As the clinic grew, so did Dr. Shaffer’s need to ask other respected
ophthalmologists to join him. Drs. William Ridgway and William van Herick
began seeing patients at the 490 Post Street clinic in the 1950s. Dr.
Shaffer then decided to formalize the specialty training he was providing
by establishing a glaucoma fellowship. The
Shaffer Glaucoma Fellowship, a 1-year advanced training
program for select ophthalmologists wishing to specialize in glaucoma,
began with Dr. John Hetherington in 1961 and has produced a long list
of luminaries in the field. By 1966 Dr. Shaffer was so impressed by
Dr. Hetherington’s research and clinical skills that he asked Dr. Hetherington
to join him. Dr. Hetherington later became a Clinical Professor at UCSF
as well as holding a host of titles nationally and internationally in
ophthalmology. In 1972, Shaffer and Hetherington asked their current
Fellow, Dr. H. Dunbar Hoskins, to join the practice. Dr. Hoskins raised
the level of excellence yet again. He held National Institutes of Health
research grants from 1976-1981; at the urging of patients, Shaffer,
Hoskins, and Hetherington created the Foundation for Glaucoma Research
in 1978 (now known as the Glaucoma Research Foundation); and from 1993-2009
he served as Executive Vice President of the American Academy of Ophthalmology,
the world’s largest organization for ophthalmologists.
In 1987 Hetherington and Hoskins asked Dr. Christopher Dickens, another Shaffer Fellow alumnus, to join them. In 1989 Dr. Andrew Iwach completed his Shaffer Fellowship, and, a year later, Drs. Hoskins and Hetherington invited him to join the practice. After 49 years, Dr. Shaffer retired but continued to mentor the unique and accomplished group of physicians he had assembled.
Dr. Shaffer’s influence is extensive even today. The Glaucoma Research Foundation, with its mission to find a cure for glaucoma through research and education, has grown to encompass a multidisciplinary team of basic and clinical scientists at several universities in the United States, working together to solve the underlying mysteries of this blinding disease. Drs. Hetherington and Hoskins are founders of the American Glaucoma Society, which is a professional organization for glaucomatologists to share their latest research findings and techniques. Recognizing an unmet need in the general ophthalmology community, Dr. Iwach coordinates the annual Glaucoma 360, bringing together the most influential clinicians of the day for a comprehensive seminar geared toward the general ophthalmologist. This seminar debuted the Shaffer-Hetherington-Hoskins named lecture and is attended by ophthalmologists from across the U.S. and beyond.
Since its humble beginnings at 490 Post Street, the group of physicians at the Glaucoma Center of San Francisco not only trained today’s leaders in the practice and study of glaucoma, but have themselves given well over 1000 lectures throughout the world and produced over 350 scientific publications and textbooks on glaucoma.
In 2005 the 490 Post Street clinic that Drs. Horner and Shaffer once occupied closed and reopened at 55 Stevenson Street as the Glaucoma Center of San Francisco. With Dr. Iwach as Executive Director, this institute, dedicated to serving those with glaucoma, is the largest free-standing glaucoma practice on the West Coast. The addition of Drs. Terri Pickering, and Sunita Radhakrishnan to the group have broadened the research interests and teaching experience embodied within the practice. Fluent in 9 languages, our doctors and staff reflect the diversity of the San Francisco Bay Area as well. What has not changed is our philosophy of treating the person and not just the disease.