[Congressional Record (Bound Edition), Volume 146 (2000), Part 18]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page 25920]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office, www.gpo.gov]



                           HON. CLIFF STEARNS

                               of florida

                    in the house of representatives

                      Wednesday, November 1, 2000

  Mr. STEARNS. Mr. Speaker, today I pay tribute to the Wilmer Eye 
Institute at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland. The Institute 
celebrated its 75th anniversary in April of this year and is known 
throughout the world for its outstanding staff and exceptional care 
that is delivered at the facility.
  The Wilmer Eye Institute has been designated as the best overall 
department of ophthalmology in the country. This distinction marks the 
fifth consecutive year that it has received this honor. This is the 
first year that Wilmer has been designated best in all categories by 
the Ophthalmology Times, which includes best overall, best research, 
best clinical, and best residency. The fact that it is the only 
department to be given such recognition by a peer survey of department 
chairmen and directors of residency programs across the United States 
makes this an even greater honor.
  The Wilmer Institute has an interesting history. Back in the 1920's, 
Mrs. Aida Breckenridge, who suffered from glaucoma, was treated by Dr. 
William Holland Wilmer. To show her gratitude Mrs. Breckenridge 
persuaded 700 other grateful patients to build an eye hospital to honor 
him. Through her efforts $3.7 million was raised and the Wilmer Eye 
Institute was dedicated in 1929. It was the first eye hospital to 
combine patient care with teaching and research.
  Since it was founded, the Institute has made many significant 
contributions throughout the years. In 1947, physicians on staff at 
Wilmer were responsible for writing the textbook on the subject of 
Nueroophthalmology and are still considered to be the authority on this 
  I would like to mention several major achievements made by Wilmer 
Institute to correct diseases that impair eye sight. In 1956, 
scientists at Wilmer discovered that excess oxygen in incubators causes 
retinal damage in many premature infants. This discovery resulted in a 
dramatic decrease in the number of blind preemies.
  Then, in 1979, the Dana Center under the auspices of Wilmer opened 
the first and only preventive ophthalmology center in the United 
States. The Center has been instrumental in saving the sight of 
millions of people all over the world. The Dana Center can list among 
its many accomplishments the following discoveries by its researchers; 
overexposure to ultraviolet light from the sun significantly increases 
the risk of developing cataracts; demonstrated the link between smoking 
and cataracts; found that glaucoma strikes African-Americans at five 
times rate of white Americans, and are developing more effective 
screening techniques for this disease; and the Center was also 
instrumental in leading to the development of the first safe drug to 
treat and control river blindness.
  Perhaps one of the most meaningful discoveries made by its 
researchers occurred in 1983 when Vitamin A capsules were given to 
children in developing countries to prevent blindness. Another benefit 
of this discovery was a 30 percent drop in the death rate among these 
  The Wilmer researchers continued to make other noteworthy discoveries 
throughout the 1980s. In 1987, the Institute developed one of the most 
effective eye drops to treat the eye pressure caused by glaucoma. 
Cornea surgeons at Wilmer successfully used excimer laser energy to 
erase scars on the cornea which delayed and in some cases eliminated 
the need for a transplant.
  These are but a few of the many, many contributions that have been 
made since the founding of the Wilmer Institute 75 years ago. I believe 
we all owe Mrs. Breckinridge our gratitude for her keen insight and 
tireless efforts to promote the establishment of this premiere eye 
  Mr. Speaker, I can't speak highly enough about the Wilmer Institute 
which is responsible for preventing the loss of sight of millions of 
people around the world. It is precisely for this reason that it is 
regarded as the best eye hospital in the world by doctors surveyed in 
the U.S. News and Report. It has proven time and time again that it is 
on cutting edge when it comes to treatment of eye disorders. I'm not 
surprised the first ophthalmic genetic center in the United States was 
established at Wilmer.
  The leading causes of blindness are cataracts, infection, diabetes, 
macular degeneration, and glaucoma. In the words of Dr. Morton 
Goldberg, Chairman of the Wilmer Eye Institute, ``My prognosis for the 
future of eye care and eye research is higher than it ever has been.'' 
This type of optimism from the number one ophthalmology institution in 
the country should be very comforting for every individual who has a 
history of eye disease in his or her family.
  Many of us here in Congress have had first hand experience with being 
treated at the Wilmer Institute and know that it has and will continue 
to do an outstanding job in caring for its patients. Let me offer my 
congratulations and best wishes to the staff for their years of

hardwork and dedication. Congratulations to the Wilmer Institute at 
Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland as they celebrate their 75th 
anniversary this year.