Michael E. Zegans, MD, has been named the inaugural Francis A. L’Esperance, Jr., MD, Visual Sciences Scholar by Duane Compton, PhD, Dean of the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and Sandra Wong, MD, MS, chair of surgery at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (D-H). Zegans is section chief of ophthalmology at D-H, a professor of surgery and of microbiology and immunology at the Geisel School of Medicine, and faculty director of the Health Professions Program at Dartmouth College. The scholar is funded by an endowment established by world-renowned ophthalmologist Francis A. L’Esperance, Jr., MD, (DC'53, MED’54), which supports research in ophthalmology and diseases of the eye.
Zegans’ research focuses primarily on ocular surface infection. His investigations have included two large National Eye Institute-funded clinical studies of bacterial and fungal corneal infections—Steroids for Corneal Ulcer Trial (SCUT) and Mycotic Ulcer Treatment Trial (MUTT)—in collaboration with Aravind Eye Hospital and the Proctor Foundation at University of California San Francisco (UCSF). Support from the endowment will enable Zegans to “extend both of these projects into microbial determinants of corneal virulence in collaboration with microbiologists at Geisel. This research will inform the development of novel anti-microbial strategies in the clinical management of infectious keratitis.”
“I’m very honored to receive this appointment,” said Zegans, who came to D-H in 1998 following a fellowship at UCSF’s Proctor Foundation. “Dr. L’Esperance has made many and diverse contributions to ophthalmology, and having a fellowship bearing his name is an incredible honor.”
A 1953 graduate of Dartmouth College and a 1954 graduate of Dartmouth Medical School, L’Esperance is considered a pioneer in laser vision correction. In the I960s, he led the introduction, testing, and broad application of laser therapy for correcting near-sightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism, and for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy. He was the first to use the new laser technology in humans. L’Esperance went on to develop the first argon laser—and seven other lasers—for ophthalmologic use and became a pioneer in its use for ophthalmological surgery and therapy. In 1987, he performed the first PRK (photo refractive keratectomy) laser eye surgery procedure. Thousands of individuals suffering from diabetes have retained their sight because of L’Esperance's work.
L’Esperance served as a professor of clinical ophthalmology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and was an attending ophthalmologist at the Edward S. Harkness Eye Institute and at Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital. He was also affiliated with Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital, New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mt. Sinai, and New York Presbyterian Columbia Campus. He is a past president of both the American Board of Laser Surgery and the Ophthalmic Research Foundation and Ophthalmic Laser Surgical Society. His numerous awards and honors include the prestigious Rank Prize for Optoelectronics in 2010.