Marguerite B. McDonald
Thirty years ago, on March 25, 1988, Marguerite B. McDonald, MD, performed the first laser vision correction procedure on a normal-sighted human eye in Louisiana.
The PRK procedure had been studied in thousands of plastic test plates, both animal and human cadaver eyes, as well as living rabbit and monkey eyes, but had not yet been tested in a living human. However, Alberta Cassady, a 62-year-old woman with cancer of the orbit who needed the eyeball and contents of the eye socket removed, volunteered to allow the team to experiment with the procedure before she lost her eye.
LSU Eye Center used the vivarium at the Delta Primate Center in Covington, Louisiana, and due to the urgent nature of the case, the FDA allowed McDonald to rush Cassady past the monkey cages and perform the surgery on her, according to a press release from Ophthalmic Consultants of Long Island, McDonald’s current practice.
Marguerite B. McDonald performs retinoscopy on a PRK postop monkey.
Photo provided by Marguerite McDonald, MD.
“We watched her heal on a daily basis, right up until the exenteration 11 days later,” McDonald said in an email to Healio.com/OSN. “The refractive and clinical results were excellent, and the pathology report showed the healing pattern that we now know so well.”
The surgery and its postop evaluations went so well that the FDA allowed McDonald and her research team, which included Stephen Trokel, MD, Charles Munnerlyn, PhD, and Stephen Klyce, PhD, to immediately start the blind human trials (blind eyes with normal corneas).
Since that initial surgery, PRK and other laser correction procedures have come a long way, evolving dramatically and becoming popular the world over.
“Looking back on the procedure we performed on Mrs. Cassady so many years ago, I am so proud and excited to see how far laser vision correction has come,” McDonald said in the press release.
Cassady lost her battle to cancer, and despite the fact that research centers are usually named after rich donors, McDonald and her team lobbied for the laser facility at Louisiana State University to be named after her.
“Her remarkable bravery and generosity in the face of such tragedy gave us vital information that allowed the FDA to accelerate the approval process,” McDonald said in the email correspondence. - by Rebecca L. Forand