Spencer P. Thornton
Spencer P. Thornton, MD, FACS, former president of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery and a pioneer in the world of ophthalmology, died Saturday, Oct. 26.
Thornton had more than 40 years of experience in private practice in ophthalmology, published more than 250 journal articles, and edited or wrote chapters in 29 textbooks, according to the Hawaiian Eye Foundation, where he formerly served on its board of directors.
He also served on the board of directors of the American College of Eye Surgeons, the International Society for Refractive Surgery and the International Refractive Surgery Club. He co-founded Biosyntrx, where he also served as president and chief medical officer.
Thornton graduated from Bowman Gray School of Medicine of Wake Forest University and completed his residency in ophthalmology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
He traveled to more than 30 countries to teach and discuss his work and was a clinical professor of ophthalmology at the University of Tennessee.
Richard L. Lindstrom
To me, Spencer Thornton was larger than life. I got to know him quite well through a shared passion for cataract surgery and especially corneal refractive surgery, as well as an interest in practice management. We shared leadership experiences at the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery and the International Society for Refractive Surgery of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. We taught courses around the world together and co-edited several writings, especially on astigmatism surgery. There are several companies that manufacture Thornton/Lindstrom diamond knives and markers.
Spencer was a superb clinician and surgeon, much beloved by patients. More unique, he was superlative at sharing his knowledge with colleagues of all ages and nationalities around the globe, with a special love for South Africa. His lectures were both educational and entertaining.
I will remember Spencer as a gifted surgeon who was an innovator and an amazing teacher. He was also a special friend whose conduct always proceeded from goodwill and caring for the rights and feelings of others. He was a man whose company in a large gathering or small dinner party was equally memorable. I was blessed to call him a friend.
Richard L. Lindstrom, MD
OSN Chief Medical Editor
Spencer Thornton was truly a remarkable ophthalmologist and dear friend, whose humble nature and kind generosity connected him with so many colleagues across the United States and around the world.
Spence was a gifted surgeon, one of the early adopters of phaco and president of the ASCRS from 1997 to 1999. He designed many instruments, devices and implants that are still widely used today, such as the Thornton fixation ring. With his amazing hands, he was an accomplished cataract surgeon and also an accomplished magician, appearing on The Tonight Show multiple times to showcase that talent. I became very close to Spence on a trip to South Africa in 2011 where we spent many hours talking about ophthalmology and life.
The most important lesson that I learned from Spence was prioritizing time with family and friends because it is those relationships that give life meaning. Thank you, Spence, for making ophthalmology, and our world, a better place.
Uday Devgan, MD
Healio/OSN Section Editor
Spencer P. Thornton was one of the finest men I’ve known: the epitome of the Southern gentlemen, unfailingly warm and kind to all he met.
He became a mainstay of our Hawaiian Eye meeting in the very earliest years, the ultimate master of ceremonies and respected leader of the popular Lifestyles program.
Thornton led teams of U.S. ophthalmologists to teach in South Africa during the darkest days of the apartheid boycotts.
Spence and his wife, Ginnie, loved joining our surgical missions to the South Pacific, especially the kingdom of Tonga.
He taught my children mental magic, which he called Thorntonism, and was always able to pull a quarter out of your ear with his magnificent sleight of hand. Given your birthdate and a few seconds, he could tell you the day of the week you were born. Correctly!
Spence was a pioneer of refractive surgery, designing several instruments, teaching and writing extensively, and was renowned for his work with the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery as chief judge of the annual Film Festival.
In all things, academic and social, Spence was a terrific role model and friend to all who had the pleasure of knowing him.
He told me he was my “brother from another mother.” And what an honor it was!
John Corboy, MD
Founder, Hawaiian Eye Foundation