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Tracing our origin back to 1941, the Glaucoma Center of San Francisco has one of the largest number of glaucoma specialists in one location on the West Coast. We are proud of the team of Doctors we've assembled.


Dr. Robert N. Shaffer, who passed away in 2007, was born into a medical family in
Pennsylvania. His father was an eye, ear, nose, and throat specialist, and young Bob visited his father’s office often, which awakened his interest in caring for the eye. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and cum laude from Pomona College in 1934 and attended Stanford University Medical School for his medical training. After his internship, he married his childhood sweetheart, Virginia, and settled in San Francisco.

Dr. Shaffer quickly distinguished himself as both a clinician and teacher. By 1944, he had established the Glaucoma Clinic at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center and joined Dr. Warren Horner in private practice. As a Clinical Professor of ophthalmology, he was regarded to be a consummate clinician and a glaucoma pioneer. He believed that research should be useful and significant to patient care.

For example, Dr. Shaffer was the first to recognize and describe the complex processes of ciliary block glaucoma and aphakic vitreous block glaucoma as well as how to manage them. He popularized gonioscopy as an essential technique for understanding the mechanisms of glaucoma and promoted goniotomy as the initial surgical treatment for primary infantile glaucoma. In 1961, he co-authored with Dr. Bernard Becker the first edition of Becker-Shaffer’s Diagnosis and Therapy of the Glaucomas. It was an instant success as a guide for physicians on how to manage these complex diseases that remains a principal reference for ophthalmologists today.

Also in 1961, Dr. Shaffer established a Glaucoma Fellowship to train young
ophthalmologists in the complexities of glaucoma diagnosis and management. Dr.
Shaffer considered his Fellows as among his proudest achievements. Shaffer Fellows continue to be trained yearly at the Glaucoma Center of San Francisco in the philosophy of Dr. Shaffer. He taught his Fellows both the art of patient care and the science and skills of glaucoma management. He and Virginia also taught his Fellows the art and skills needed to effectively present their research, a key component of the Fellowship, with that same excellence. Many of these Fellows not only have treated thousands of glaucoma patients but also have become leaders in glaucoma, chairs of ophthalmic departments, and major contributors to ophthalmology worldwide.

Dr. Shaffer had an esteemed relationship with the American Board of Ophthalmology, including the leadership position of Secretary–Treasurer from 1980 to 1985, and authored The History of the American Board of Ophthalmology: 1916 –1991, commemorating its 75th anniversary. He was inducted into the American
Ophthalmological Society in 1952, became its President in 1984, and in 1986 received its highest honor, the Howe Medal.

In 1978, Dr. Shaffer and his partners Drs. H. Dunbar Hoskins, Jr. and John
Hetherington, Jr. created the Glaucoma Research Foundation, which has contributed over $60 million to understanding glaucoma and educating patients and doctors in its care. The Foundation continues to support glaucoma research and excellence in patient care well into the 21st century.

The achievements of Dr. Robert Shaffer are many and significant, but it is his kindness and caring approach toward patients that is his legacy carried forth today by the Glaucoma Center of San Francisco. He always met people with a warm welcome and was sure to find something that offered encouragement. As his protégé and friend, Dr. H. Dunbar Hoskins, Jr. said, “His patients adored him for his honesty, forthrightness, and caring and kind manner. His contributions to our knowledge and skills are legendary, but his contributions to the humanity of being a physician exceed them.”

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