In-person and online, optometrists and colleagues have been sharing memories and tributes to Dr. Epstein, an advocate for the continued empowerment and betterment of optometry.

In-person and online, optometrists and colleagues have been sharing memories and tributes to Dr. Epstein, an advocate for the continued empowerment and betterment of optometry. Click image to enlarge.

Arthur Epstein, OD, who died on Tuesday, left an indelible mark on optometry, and the news of his unexpected passing has left many in the profession beside themselves. Dr. Epstein was a stalwart figure in the field who challenged colleagues and institutions to aim higher and always adapt to changing circumstances. His following and relationships within the profession and in industry had led him to become a sought-after speaker and lecturer on many hot topics and emerging trends in eye care. He was 71.

A child of the Bronx and Long Island in New York, Dr. Epstein received his optometry degree from the SUNY State College of Optometry, where he also served as the college’s first resident in ocular disease. Jerome Sherman, OD, of SUNY recalls that Dr. Epstein was his first resident at the fledgling institution during its earliest years and was a commanding presence even then. “Art demonstrated perseverance very early on,” says. Dr. Sherman. “During his residency, he somehow learned to perform procedures including BIO efficiently even with one arm in a cast because of an unfortunate injury!”

An expert in dry eye and ocular surface disease, Dr. Epstein participated in the seminal TFOS DEWS II report. After a move to Phoenix, AZ, he cofounded Phoenix Eye Care with his wife Shannon Steinhäuser, OD. There he was director of clinical research at the practice’s dry eye and ocular surface disease center.

He was a past chair of the Contact Lens & Cornea Section of the American Optometric Association and a founder of the Optometric Dry Eye Society. As chair, Dr. Epstein addressed the United States Congress on the subject of contact lens safety. In 2021, Dr. Epstein was ranked #1 in Newsweek’s America’s Best Eye Doctors. He was commended for the quality and continuity of care he provided.

“It’s very sad when a colleague dies, and even worse when the colleague was a former student and resident, and friend for decades,” says Dr. Sherman. “I am beyond sad: grief-stricken.”

Dr. Epstein had been a longtime contributor to Review of Optometry, a member of its Editorial Advisory Board as well as founder and chief medical editor of the weekly e-newsletter Optometric Physician.

“He was one of the first optometrists I met when I started on the editorial staff back in 2007,” notes Review Publisher Michael Hoster. “He always took the time to call me and thoroughly explain ocular anatomy and pathology in an effort to make me a better editor and medical writer.”

Many credit Dr. Epstein for his incisive commentary on the state of optometry. “Art never shied away from voicing his opinion about all matters of the optometric profession—no matter how potentially controversial,” Mr. Hoster says. “He always emphasized what he thought was best for eyecare providers, their practices and their patients—without any fear of repercussion.”

Mr. Hoster specified that that level of steadfast conviction, dedication and passion rarely is on display in public forums today and was a signature characteristic of Dr. Epstein’s personal and professional complexion. “He’s going to be missed tremendously.” 

“Art always pushed us to be better, at whatever we were doing, by questioning conventional wisdom and challenging the way things were,” says Marc Ferrara, CEO of Information Services at Jobson Medical Information, the publisher of Review of Optometry and other eyecare titles. “He led the profession forward through his determined example and strong point of view.”

Hearing Dr. Epstein's take on the events of the day was a fixture of the weekly routine for thousands of ODs and others in the profession, says Joseph Shovlin, OD, of Scranton, PA. “Every weekend, I looked forward to reading his weekly missive in Optometric Physician. Even when I didn’t agree with what he had to say, I always knew his motives were in the best interest of our profession. In many respects, he was our conscience.”

An Outspoken Mentor and Trailblazer

In-person and online, optometrists and colleagues have been sharing memories and tributes to Dr. Epstein, an advocate for the continued empowerment and betterment of optometry.

“He was as passionate about optometry as anyone I’ve ever known and, more than anything else, he wanted to see our profession move forward,” says Alan Kabat, OD, Medical Director at Oyster Point Pharma.

Dr. Kabat notes, “How appropriate that this memorial is being published in Review of Optometry. My relationship with Art began because of my involvement with Review, and my best and fondest memories of Art involve working together with and for Review,” whether it was roundtable discussions on emerging drug therapies, continuing education meetings or social events like the publication’s annual SECO dinner. “Art was a friend, a mentor, a foil and a confidant,” he said.

Dr. Kabat, who held academic positions before transitioning to  industry, also said of Dr. Epstein, “I can still hear him greeting me across a crowded room, “Professor!”—his pet name for me. I like to think that Art took pride not only in his own successes, but also those of his close friends,” Dr. Kabat notes. “Rest in peace, my friend. You left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of so many, and we will miss you terribly.”

According to Christine W. Sindt, OD, a clinical professor at the University of Iowa, Dr. Epstein taught her the value of mentorship. “He provided me with countless opportunities—the opportunity to work harder, the opportunity to be of service to others, the opportunity to disagree until I actually understood my ‘why,’” she says. “Art is in everything I do professionally, and I am so grateful.”

“Art and I shared a friendship that started early in my career, and although he was sometimes considered fiery and provocative, Art always had the profession at heart,” says noted educator and clinician Paul Karpecki, OD. “Those who knew him will remember him for his kindness, loyalty and caring personality. Although he has incredible professional accomplishments to his name, it’s the person we’ll miss the most.”

Review of Optometry will continue to honor Dr. Epstein and his legacy of expertise and passion.

A celebration of Dr. Epstein's life will be held at a later date to be announced.