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Dr Gregg Kokame awarded the Gass Medal, the Heisman trophy of retina specialists

Date: February 9th, 2021 in Faculty, Ophthalmology    Print or PDF

Dr. Gregg Kokame, MD, MMM, signing the historic signature book on induction into the prestigious American Ophthalmological Society. Established in 1864, it was the first specialty society in the nation. Dr. Kokame is Chief of Ophthalmology and a Clinical Professor at JABSOM. He is the Medical Director of Hawai’i Macula and Retina Institute, and a Founding Partner and Senior Consultant at Retina Consultants of Hawai’i, Inc. Photo courtesy Dr. Kokame.

Dr Gregg Kokame awarded the Gass Medal, the Heisman trophy of retina specialists


Edited by Paula Bender, JABSOM News

Dr. Gregg Kokame was awarded the Gass medal on 2/6/21 by the Macula Society for his excellence in research in the study of macular diseases.  Donald M. Gass is the father of medical retina who named and described so many different macular diseases while helping to explain the pathogenesis of these diseases. 

“To me, the J. Donald M. Gass Medal is the most amazing honor, and one that I would have never thought possible.  The Gass Medal is like the Heisman Trophy for retina,” said Dr. Kokame. “I am extremely honored and humbled by this incredible award, which means so much to me, as Dr. Gass meant so much to me.”

According to Dr. Kokame, Dr. Gass was respected not only by his fellows and residents, but by all of the retina specialists around the world, including the most well-known leaders, who learned from him.  In addition, he was a humble and approachable person, often oblivious to the respect that he was given from all of his colleagues. 

Dr. Kokame was his fellow at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, which has been rated the number one ophthalmology program for many years. He not only enjoyed learning from him and interacting with him, but Dr. Kokame also learned from Dr. Gass the importance of humility, dedication to family, and the need to think enthusiastically.

“The Macula Society is the foremost retinal honor society in the world and winning an award here is no small accomplishment. These awards recognize those who have, throughout their careers, consistently produced outstanding work that has moved our field forward.” stated Dr. H Richard McDonald, chairman of the Award Committee for the Macula Society.  “They do justice to the giants whose names adorn their awards. The nominees for these awards are many, all worthy, and the winners are few. The awards committee is proud to present these most cherished honors to the 2021 recipients.”

The Gass Medal was established to celebrate excellence and outstanding contributions in the study of macular diseases by the Macula Society since 1995.  Previous awardees have included the most well recognized retina specialists in the world, including Dr. Gass’ closest colleagues and leaders of the Macula Society, Dr. Larry Singerman and Dr. Larry Yannuzzi.  Dr. Alan Bird was the leader of the medical retina program at the famous Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, where Dr. Kokame did his sabbatical in 2000. 

Many department chairs have been awarded the Gass Medal, Including Dr. Stuart Fine, chairman at Wilmer Johns Hopkins; Dr. Lee Jampol, chairman at Northwestern; Dr. Joan Miller, chairman at Harvard Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary; Dr. Daniel Martin, chairman at the Cleveland Clinic; Dr. Paul Sternberg, chairman at Emory; and Dr Julia Haller, chairman at the Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia. Internationally Dr. Ursula Schmidt-Erfurth is chairman of the University Eye Hospital in Vienna, and Dr. Gabriel Coscas was chairman at the University Paris XII and President of the French Retina Society.

“My good friend, Dr. Anita Agarwal, also was awarded the Gass Medal. She was also a fellow of Dr. Gass and wrote the fifth edition of the Gass Atlas to continue Dr. Gass’ legacy of work.  The Gass Atlas has always been known as the “bible” for medical retinal diseases,” Dr. Kokame said.

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Dr. Gregg Kokame, Dr. Anita Agarwal, and Dr. Alex Hunyor with the 5th edition of the Gass Atlas. Photo from hawaiimacula.com.

“Dr. Agarwal and I are the first two fellows of Dr. Gass to receive this award.  We also have led the Gass Fellowship Society, which is a society of Dr. Gass’ colleagues, residents, fellows, and now fellows of Dr. Gass’ fellows, whose goal is to continue Dr. Gass’ approach to the study of macular diseases. “

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