Many people are surprised by the personal response they receive to phone calls or emails sent to AMD.org. It’s not so surprising if you know the history of the Macular Degeneration Partnership.
Henry R. Nesburn, MD – aka “Dr. Henry”
Imagine being an eye doctor and losing your own sight. This is what happened to Dr. Henry Nesburn and what triggered the creation of the Macular Degeneration Partnership.
“Hank” Nesburn was a popular and well-known ophthalmologist in Los Angeles since he opened his practice in 1935. All his patients knew him as a physician who cared about them, their families and the challenges of dealing with eye diseases and injuries.
This legacy continued when their son, Anthony B. Nesburn, MD became an eye doctor and joined him in the practice. For ever after, the father was known as “Dr. Henry” and the son as “Dr. Tony”.
Dr. Henry and his wife Lilian were active in the community and contributed to the arts in all forms. Hank knew how vision loss affected his patients and wanted to provide a “hands-on” art experience at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, specifically for the partially sighted and blind. It was a great success, with audio guides and works of art that could be touched to discover their beauty and power.
After years of taking care of others, Dr. Henry noticed that his own vision had changed. To everyone’s dismay, it turned out to be age-related macular degeneration. This was at a time when there were no treatments for AMD except photocoagulation laser, which destroyed vision immediately, even as it saved some vision later.
Hank continued to see patients, but had to give up surgery. Eventually, he couldn’t see well enough to practice, but came into the office every day in a leadership role. He had to give up driving but he never gave up golf! He used a brightly colored ball and relied on the directions of his partners to find it if it went astray.
His whole family watched his struggles to accommodate to macular degeneration and vision loss. When he passed away, Lilian established a small endowment to start an AMD education and support program to help others with their journey.
From a small support group and the occasional seminar, the Macular Degeneration Partnership (so named in 1998), has grown to an international organization that has attracted over 53,000 members. Through the website, AMD.org and the toll-free “warm” line, thousands of patients and families are helped.
And the legacy of Hank and Lilian Nesburn continues – their granddaughter Kristin has followed Dr. Henry and Dr. Tony into ophthalmology. Dr. Kristin is beloved by her patients, as her dad and grandfather were before her. To round out the family involvement is M. Cristina Kenney, MD, PhD. Dr. Kenney is professor and head of eye research at the University of California, Irvine and is married to Dr. Tony. Not surprisingly, most know her as “Dr. Cris”.
You need look no further than the history of the organization to see why we care and why we give such personal attention to patients, families and members.