Preserving the Precious Gift of Sight

RRF Award of Merit in Retina Research

Presented by The Retina Society

The Award of Merit in Retina Research was established in 1978 by RRF to recognize outstanding vision scientists whose work contributes to knowledge about the retina and retinal diseases. Funding for the Award of Merit in the amount of $50,000 is provided by Retina Research Foundation through a series of endowed gifts that are dedicated to the Award.

The recipient is chosen by the Awards Committee of the Retina Society, and the selection criteria are:

  • A single outstanding achievement in retina research, or;
  • A potentially significant contribution to new knowledge about the retina, its role in the visual process and/or vitreoretinal diseases or disorders.

2016 Award Recipient

Steve Charles, MD

Charles Retina Institute

Germantown, TN


Awarded at the Retina Society Annual Meeting

September 15, 2016

San Diego, CA


Charles L. Schepens Lecture

Evolution of Vitreoretinal Techniques and Technologies

Dr. Charles with Dr. Mark W. Johnson, Retina Society President

Dr. Charles delivering the Schepens Lecture

Education, Career Achievements, and Research Interests

Steve Charles, MD is one of the world’s leading vitreoretinal surgeons and has developed many of the techniques and devices used by vitreoretinal surgeons worldwide.  He has performed over 36,000 vitreoretinal surgeries, lectured in 50 countries and operated in 25, delivered 17 named lectures, and over 1000 speaking trips. He authored a leading textbook in the field which is now in the 5th edition and in 6 languages and authored over 174 articles in the medical literature and over 50 book chapters.  He is a Fellow in the American College of Surgeons and International College of Surgeons and a member of the Retina Society, Macular Society, American Society of Retinal Specialists, Club Jules Gonin, American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, American Academy of Ophthalmology, American-European College of Ophthalmic Surgery, Euro-Lam, and the Dowling Society.  He is on the Board of Governors of the ARVO Foundation for Eye Research He is on the editorial board of Retina and a reviewer for Ophthalmology, Archives of Ophthalmology, American Journal of Ophthalmology, and British Journal of Ophthalmology, writes a column for Retina Physician and is an editor for eMedicine.  He has received the Wacker Medal from the Club Jules Gonin, the first Founders Medal from the Vitreous Society, was inducted into the University of Miami School of Medicine Medical Alumni Association Hall of Fame, and was named by Ocular Surgery News as one of the top ten innovators in the past 25 years.   He is consistently listed in Best Doctors in America and Becker’s Top 34 Ophthalmologists in America. He is a Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Tennessee.

After four years in engineering school, he completed medical school at the University of Miami School of Medicine. He did research all four medical school years at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. After a medical internship at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami he completed a residency at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute followed by a two year Clinical Associate appointment at the National Eye Institute (NIH); focused on vitreoretinal surgery, angiogenesis research, and medical device engineering.

He is a mechanical and electrical engineer and has well over 100 issued or pending patents. He is a consultant for Alcon Laboratories and the principal architect of the Alcon Accurus and Alcon Constellation Vision System. Alcon also acquired InnoVision, a company started by Dr Charles, the Alcon Accurus and Constellation product lines are derivatives of InnoVision technology invented by Dr Charles.

He is the Founder of MicroDexterity Systems, which developed robots for dexterity enhancement for minimally invasive knee and hip replacement, spine surgery, and skull base neurosurgery. Investors included Medtronic, Baxter, and Allegiance V.Mueller. Stryker, Inc. acquired MicroDexterity Systems, in December 2009.

He is a cofounder, systems engineer, largest investor & stockholder, and Chairman of CamPlex Inc, developing advanced visualization technology for MIS spine, neurosurgery and trans-oral approaches to head and neck cancer.

He is on the board of Zeroto510, a medical device seed capital firm based in Memphis.

Steve Charles is an Airline Transport Pilot, Multi-Engine, Instrument rated pilot with Type Ratings in Citation 500, 560, 650, Falcon 50and Sabre 65 jets and currently owns and flies a Sabre 65.



2015 Award Recipient


Thomas W. Gardner, MD

Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

University of Michigan

Kellogg Eye Center

Ann Arbor, MI


Awarded at the Retina Society Annual Meeting

October 9, 2015

Paris, France


Charles L. Schepens Lecture:

“The Effects of Diabetic Retinopathy and Panretinal Photocoagulation on Photoreceptor Cell Function as Assessed by Dark Adapmetry”       

Charles L. Schepens Lecture
Charles L. Schepens Lecture


Education, Career Achievements, and Research Interests

Thomas W. Gardner is Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and Molecular and Integrative Physiology at the University of Michigan. He practiced comprehensive ophthalmology in Franklin, Pennsylvania, and was the Jack and Nancy Turner Professor of Ophthalmology and Cellular and Molecular Physiology at the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine.

Dr. Gardner’s interests include vitreoretinal diseases and surgery, and clinical and experimental diabetic retinopathy.  He is the principal investigator for studies of retinal cell survival mechanisms and growth factor signaling in diabetes.

He has received the Heed Foundation Fellowship, a Physician-Scientist Award from the National Eye Institute, an Achievement Award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the Mary Jane Kugle Award and the Mary Tyler Moore and S. Robert Levine, M.D. Excellence in Clinical Research Award from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Dr. Gardner is a Fellow of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and a Gold Fellow of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.

He is associate editor of Diabetes and Acta Ophthalmologica, and is the former Editor-in-Chief of Current Eye Research.  He is a Taubman Scholar and Associate Chair for Research.

He attended Jefferson Medical College and served his internship at Grady Memorial Hospital, Emory University Medical School, and residency in ophthalmology at Northwestern University Medical Center.  He also served a fellowship in vitreoretinal diseases and surgery at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, and received a Master’s degree in physiology from the Pennsylvania State University in 1998. He is married to Maureen Grace Gardner and they have three children—Aisling, Colin and Corinne.


Previous Award of Merit Recipients

2015    Thomas W. Gardner, MD

2014    Peter A. Campochiaro, MD

2013    Cynthia A. Toth, MD

2012    Richard F. Spaide, MD

2011    Michael F. Marmor, MD

2010    Eliot Berson, MD

2009    Mark Humayun, MD, PhD

2008    William Tasman, MD

2007    Lloyd Paul Aiello, MD

2006    Carol Shields, MD

2005    Anthony Adamis, MD

2004    Frederick Ferris, III, MD, and Emily Chew, MD

2003    Stephen Ryan, MD

2002    Bradley Straatsma, MD

2001    no award given

2000    Ronald Klein, MD, MPH, and Barbara Klein, MD, MPH

1999    Lawrence A. Yannuzzi, MD

1998    Joe Hollyfield, PhD

1997    Stuart L. Fine, MD

1996    Gabriel Coscas, MD

1995    D. Jackson Coleman, MD

1994    Francois DeLori, PhD, and C. Katherine Dorey, PhD

1993    W. Richard Green, MD

1992    Ingrid Kreissig, MD

1991    Ronald G. Michels, MD, and Burt M. Glaser, MD

1990    Matthew M. LaVail, PhD

1989    Matthew D. Davis, MD

1988    Harvey A. Lincoff, MD

1987    Harris Ripps, PhD

1986    J. Donald Gass, MD

1985    Oleg Ponerantzeff, D Eng

1984    Werner K. Noell, MD

1983    Arnall Patz, MD

1982    Harry G. Sperling, PhD

1981    John E. Dowling, PhD

1980    Robert Machemer, MD

1979    Richard W. Young, MD

1978    Charles L. Schepens, MD

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Mission of RRF

The mission of the Retina Research Foundation is to reduce retinal blindness worldwide by funding programs in research and education. As a public charity, RRF raises funds from the private sector and the investment of its endowment funds.

RRF’s 48th Anniversary

October 1, 2017