The Medical Mission
Dr. Ira A. Abrahamson, Jr.

Calling Dr. Abrahamson a man of vision doesn't begin to tell his story — but it does not reflect the literal truth. The son of an ophthalmologist who headed several general hospitals, Ira stepped into a profession that might have seemed inevitable, given his family background. (His sister also became an ophthalmologist .) Less foreseeable was what became a defining passion for Ira Jr. — wiping out preventable blindness in children.

His mission began after his formal education: an undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, graduate and medical degrees from the UNC School of Medicine and the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

During his military service — he did stints with the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Army and the Ohio National Guard Medical Corps — he performed surgeries on young men and women whose eyes were either turning in or out. He realized that although he may have fixed the alignment of the eyes, he wasn't able to cure the poor vision of the misaligned eyes. Had the condition been detected in childhood, blindness could have been prevented.

As every ophthalmologist. knew and knows, the condition commonly known as lazy eye (amblyopia) is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children. Abrahamson transformed that knowledge into a crusade for early detection through vision-screening programs.

His passion paid off. Together with his family and in-laws, he founded the Abrahamson Pediatric Eye Institute at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, a medical center for teaching, research and patient care. Also to his credit is the founding of the Rotary Club Visual Screening Program, which is now thriving in 600 such clubs. When the program was initiated in Cincinnati, serious eye problems were detected in more than one out of four children screened.

He is also the founder of the Ira A. Abrahamson Jr. Chair of Pediatric Ophthalmology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

Abrahamson has spoken on the importance of vision screening in 20 nations, from Argentina to Malaysia to Venezuela, and for 20 years he served in medical missions in Mexico, where all the income generated by his surgeries went to the establishment of an eye clinic there. The author of four books, a number of teaching slide sets and scores of scholarly articles, he's also produced films on aspects of ophthalmic surgery.

Among his many honors is his most recent, the Distinguished Service Award of the School of Medicine of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Named a Great Living Rotarian, he and his wife, Linda, have three children; one son, not too surprisingly, is a third generation ophthalmologist.