These Are the Times That Try Men’s Souls
How Wills Eye Hospital is weathering the pandemic storm
Julia A. Haller | | Opinion
Thomas Paine’s words in the headline resound in new ways as we confront the the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. This crisis really is trying the souls of all who inhabit our planet in a manner that may seem as revolutionary as those early days of the American struggle for independence.
Paine’s famous pamphlet was published in Philadelphia in 1776, and was almost certainly familiar to James Wills Sr, an industrious Londoner who had recently immigrated to Philadelphia; his only son, James, was born there in 1777.
It is thought that the original idea for Wills Eye Hospital, bequeathed by the grocer’s son to the City of Philadelphia when he died in 1825, came from the senior James Wills. When its cornerstone was laid in 1832, the speaker described glowingly, “this shelter from the storm […] for those who are shut out from the light of heaven,” inaugurating the storied history of one of the world’s great eye centers.
In 1839, the first American physician trained in ophthalmology came to Wills, establishing our educational pillar as central to our mission, and launching a program that has trained the largest number of ophthalmologists in the USA – all stamped with the Wills imprint of excellence, and aligned with our motto: “Skill with compassion.”
Almost 200 years later, Wills Eye Hospital was honored at the invitation to “take over” this issue of The Ophthalmologist – a publication in whose international reach and driving mission-based vigor we have found a kindred spirit!
The project, hatched well before the soul-shattering COVID-19 pandemic, has pivoted over these last months, and we are proud that it can come to fruition despite the rockiness of the times. Within the following pages, we provide snapshots of our hospital and staff, indomitable through this crisis, and the important work it is our privilege to do.
You will visit our services and sample cutting-edge clinical and research projects. You will peer into our signature education and training programs. You will discover innovative telemedical initiatives – and meet some of our faculty, including Jose Pulido, who returns to Wills to direct the Henry and Corrine Bower Memorial Laboratories for Translational Medicine.
We hope you will also reflect with us on how these unprecedented times have truly tried all humanity’s souls, on how we have met these challenges, and on how the reverberations will continue to echo throughout our specialty in the future.
Julia A. Haller
Ophthalmologist-in-Chief, Wills Eye Hospital
William Tasman, MD Endowed Chair,
Professor and Chair, Department of Ophthalmology, Sidney Kimmel Medical College, Thomas Jefferson University