The McPherson House is one of five Houses that comprise the Neighborhood at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
McPherson House advisor: Dr. Blaise Nemeth
Alice McPherson, MD
Although it's quite the norm today for women to become physicians, it was far from true when Alice McPherson, MD, began her training at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. A Class of 1951 graduate and now a world-renown ophthalmologist, McPherson recalls the era just after World War II.
"Competition for places in medicine was so strong that some of the men couldn't get appointments. They said it wasn't fair for women to take up space, since women would quit in a few years," says McPherson. "I thought about this at our 50th reunion. Only three members of the Class of '51 are still practicing, and I'm one of them."
In those 50-plus years, McPherson hasn't slowed down. She is a professor of ophthalmology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, one of the world's premier medical centers. Between treating patients, supervising a teaching program and training vitreo-retinal fellows in surgery, she leads the Retina Research Foundation that she founded in 1969.
She has raised $20 million for programs in research and education and an $80 million endowment fund for future scholarships. McPherson's international reputation took hold in 1965, when she pioneered laser surgery.
In the 1970s, she helped develop the use of vitrectomy procedures. She has spoken internationally on new ways to treat diabetic retinopathy and retinopathy of prematurity, and her research continues to focus on the interplay between the retina and vitreous tissues.
In 1988, she received an Outstanding Medical Alumni Citation from UW-Madison, and in 1997, she came back to Wisconsin to accept an honorary degree. She is a member of the UW Foundation board of directors.
Even as McPherson developed her practice at the Baylor College of Medicine over the past four decades, she maintained her admiration for the UW medical school and the strength of vision science on the UW campus. She takes pride in the high research rankings of the Department of Ophthalmology, where she completed her residency.
Her tireless enthusiasm has helped to raise significant funds, including three endowed professorships and two endowed chairs, for the UW Eye Research Institute, a multidisciplinary community of scholars working to gain critical knowledge about the science and art of vision and apply it to the prevention of blindness.
McPherson has no plans for retirement. "I like the work, and I haven't developed another hobby; the Retina Research Foundation is my hobby," she says. She looks forward to many visits to Wisconsin, where she believes there is something of a renaissance in action.