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Remembrances and Thanksgiving:

by Louis A. Wilson, M.D., F.A.C.S, colleague and friend
(1930 - 1998)


What is there for me to say about Dr. F. Phinizy Calhoun, Jr. that has not been said over the years by associates and colleagues far more talented than me?  Physician, teacher, investigator, role-model and friend, dearest friend, are words that come to mind.

As Princes are perhaps born to be kings, Phin was born at a time when his family's medial heritage dictated what his profession was to be.  Great-grandson, grandson and son of noted Atlanta physicians, Phin carried this family tradition to dizzying heights.  The University of Georgia, Johns Hopkins Medical School, The Columbia-Presbyterian Eye Institute in New York City, as well as being the first American to receive a Diploma in Ophthalmology from Oxford University, prepared Phin to follow in his father's footsteps as an ophthalmologist.  In doing so, he brought modern ophthalmology to Georgia, introducing microscopic eye surgery and performing the first corneal transplant operation in Georgia in 1947.  To support the development of corneal transplant surgery, he was instrumental in developing the Georgia Lions Eye Bank, the first tissue bank in Georgia.  He also served on The Eye Bank Committee of The American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Phin was a doctor as dedicated to his patients as a mother is to her children.  He was also a meticulous observer, which in combination with his love for eye pathology, gave rise to numerous publications in peer-reviewed professional journals, and membership in many national professional societies.  He served as president of the prestigious American Ophthalmological Society and uniquely followed his father as Professor of Ophthalmology in the School of Medicine at Emory and served as Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology from 1950 until 1978.

Phin also served as a board member of The American Board of Ophthalmology which is the national examining body for all young medical doctors wishing to be certified as eye specialists in this country.

While Phin didn't know it at the time, I was one of those being examined in 1967, and I remember his understanding patience with my nervousness during my examination in eye pathology.

Not too long afterwards, I joined the ophthalmology faculty at The Medical College of Georgia and came to know Phin in a closer relationship, one which grew stronger and resulted in my eventually joining him at Emory as an associate and friend.  There I could observe daily his dedication to excellence in patient care, his bed-rock sense of professional ethics, his love of teaching and his remarkable achievements in ophthalmic pathology.  I could see the admiration and respect he received from colleagues both locally and nationally and knew that he indeed was a giant who was an equal among giants.  Yet Phin was equally a mountain of modesty and few, if any, of his patients ever knew of his national achievements.  They knew him chiefly as a caring, attentive physician doing his best to help them with their problems.

Phin was many other things as well.  A keen student of his southern heritage, proud of his Scots ancestry, active in his community and church, a brother, cousin, an uncle and a loving husband and father.  For me, he was a dearest friend and a role-model in an elusive attempt to duplicate his achievements as a physician and teacher.  Perhaps I never shall, but I would like him to know I tried.  So with apologies to Rudyard Kipling:

I'll meet him later on in the place where he has gone -
Where excellence in medicine is always done - and the
teaching of young doctors is still great fun.

I'll find him in his lanes, tending patients with their pains
And I know he'll be happy as he can be - in that place where
the surgeries are free and the patients always see.

We shall have our lunch at noon and I can tell him then,
though late - and certainly not too soon,
by the living God that made you, you're a better man
than I am, Phin Calhoun. 

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