Dr. Albert Vaiser
By Deb Silverthorn
Dr. Albert Vaiser has devoted more than six decades to the cure and care of eyesight maladies and disease. The founder of what is now known as Texas Retina Associates and co-founder of the Retina Foundation of the Southwest, Dr. Vaiser, now 87, was UT Southwestern Medical Center’s first retina specialist. Today the practice he nurtured until his retirement seven years ago has grown to 16 physicians and 14 offices throughout North Texas.
Born in 1934 in Pacasmayo, Peru, and raised in Lima, Dr. Vaiser is the son of Isaac and Muña Vaiser and brother of Clarisa, all of blessed memory. He attended National University of San Marcos, then, at his mother’s urging him to become a doctor, San Fernando School of Medicine.
“We all listened to our mothers and most of them said to go into medicine,” he said. “Once I learned about ophthalmology, and how intricate the surgery was, how delicate and deeply involved, I knew that’s what I had to do, and I loved every minute of it.”
After an internship in Lima at the British American Hospital, Dr. Vaiser studied at the University of Pennsylvania, completed a residency at the University of Illinois and then studied vitreoretinal surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. When his career began, a diagnosis of macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy or retinal detachment meant eventual blindness. Sixty years later, he said, he is proud to have contributed to advancements in this field through his practice and the foundation.
In 1965 Dr. Vaiser moved to Dallas with his wife, Rebecca, and their sons Daniel, of blessed memory, and Gerald. Their daughter Angela was born six years later. With his caseload growing, Dr. Vaiser opened a private practice, later joining forces with Dr. William Snyder, of blessed memory, and Dr. William Hutton. Together they founded Texas Retina Associates.
In 1975, the TRA doctors joined forces with Joe B. Turner to establish the Retina Foundation of the Southwest, with a mission to prevent vision loss and restore sight through innovative research and treatment.
In 1982, Dr. Vaiser and his associates invited Drs. David and Eileen Birch of Boston to the foundation to start a research center on inherited retinal diseases.
“Right away we appreciated the can-do attitude, the friendly and supportive team,” said David Birch. “From writing papers to conducting significant gene therapy trials, we have grown and made incredible strides.” The Birches work at the Foundation with CEO Dr. Karl Csaky, Dr. Krista Kelly and Dr. Yi-Zhong Wang. “Dr. Vaiser has always been encouraging, complimentary and truly a father figure.”
The foundation now has five laboratories participating annually in more than 60 clinical research studies and providing more than 2,000 vision assessments. Clients, referred by their own practitioners, are provided services at no cost at the agency’s state-of-the-art facility in Dallas.
The Foundation receives support from national grants, individual and family foundations, its Racing for Sight events at Lone Star Park and its annual fundraiser which has featured President George W. and Laura Bush, Drew Brees and an online fireside chat with Dr. Anthony Fauci.
“Dr. Vaiser was absolutely instrumental in establishing the credibility of the Retina Foundation, in educating the community, locally and around the world,” said Vanessa Peterson, development manager at the foundation. “We continue to recruit new lab specialists, to expand and accelerate our research and to continue on the path set by our founders.”
In addition to his long and esteemed practice, Vaiser created and taught a course for 25 years at the American Academy of Ophthalmology annual conference, “Best of the Academy” in Spanish, which has opened doors and shared procedures to those in Latin America.
Longtime members of Congregation Shearith Israel, the Vaisers enjoy symphony and opera and love to travel. They fondly remember monthlong trips to the World Cup and enjoying precious time with their grandchildren Adam and Debbie Klein.
Vaiser also praised the dedication of his son-in-law, Marc Klein, who has served on the foundation’s board for 20 years.
“Marc is dedicated and he is a wonderful representative who cares deeply. He is a tremendous asset and contact between the scientists and our contributors.”
Klein, an employment and immigration attorney, returned the respect.
“My father-in-law was definitely a pioneer, and incredible things have happened in what has long been respected as a world-class research institute. My goal is to honor his legacy and help the Retina Foundation continue, for many years, to make the difference it has for so many.”