Emory Eye Center Professor Emeritus George O. Waring III, MD, died January 27 as a result of a recent stroke. A cornea and refractive specialist, he served from 1979 to 2004 as Professor of Ophthalmology at Emory, moving into private practice following his academic career. Prior to joining Emory, he taught at the University of California, Davis, beginning in 1974. He completed medical school at Baylor College of Medicine in 1967, followed by ophthalmology residency and cornea fellowship at Wills Eye Hospital.
Waring amassed many accolades and honors during his career. He had more than 30 years of experience in refractive (vision correction) surgery alone, in addition to his longtime practice of corneal and cataract surgery. Overall, he practiced medicine for some 48 years. While at Emory, Dr. Waring spearheaded one of the first U.S. multicenter clinical trials in refractive surgery, the PERK study for Radial Keratotomy, and he received the first FDA approval for LASIK in the mid-1990s, a feat that has enabled many to receive vision correction surgery in this country.
Among Waring’s honors were an NIH Health Fogarty International Scholars Award (1992) that facilitated his research of laser corneal surgery in Paris. From 1993-95 he served as chair of ophthalmology and research director at Al-Magrabi Eye Hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
At Emory, he co-founded the independently owned Emory Vision Correction Center, from 1994 to 2004, where he and fellow cornea experts Doyle Stulting, MD, PhD, and Keith Thompson, MD, practiced refractive surgery. He was editor of the Journal of Refractive Surgery from 1989-2010, published more than 500 articles, two textbooks and received numerous awards from the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the International Society of Refractive Surgery, including its Lifetime Achievement Award. He was a frequent speaker throughout the world and appeared as an expert on NBC’s “Nightline,” PBS’s “McNeil/Lehrer News Hour,” ABC’s “20/20” and “Good Morning America,” and CNN.
Waring held memberships in the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Ophthalmological Society, the International Society of Refractive Surgery and the International Intraocular Implant Club, among others.
“We are all deeply saddened by the loss of this remarkable and talented individual,” said Emory Eye Center Director Timothy W. Olsen. “George was a true academician with a brilliant mind and a sharp wit. He made fundamental contributions to the field of refractive surgery. To best understand Waring, one should be in a conference room, discussing a complex cornea or refractive topic and turn him loose at the white board. George’s ‘chalk-talk’ makes many of the most impressive PowerPoint presentations seem . . . well . . . unnecessary. Waring exuded positive energy in a way that I’ve witnessed in very few other individuals. People really loved George. He was intellectually honest and cared very much about his patients, friends, and family. He will be greatly missed as a Professor Emeritus at Emory.”
“George was a first a teacher, then mentor, and then a colleague, a friend, and a confidant to me,” says J. Bradley Randleman, MD, professor of ophthalmology and director of the section of Cornea, External Disease and Refractive Surgery. “He trained me in the clinical aspects of cornea, in the writing and research method, and in the editorial side of the Journal. He also supported me though personal challenges, always offering heartfelt advice. I will miss George’s friendship, his laughter, and his presence in my personal and professional endeavors.”
Waring is survived by his sons George O. Waring IV, MD (wife Karolinne Maia Rocha, MD, PhD) of Charleston, SC, and John Timothy Waring, MD of Sacramento, CA; daughter Joy Waring Harty of Atlanta; and adopted son Matthew George.
Waring was an enthusiastic worldwide traveler, an avid outdoorsman and lover of the arts. Those who were fortunate to know George Waring knew that he embraced life fully, was an incredible academician and leaves a legacy of scholarly curiosity that he passed on to his own sons as well as countless others who trained under his wise leadership.