Simmons Lessell, MD
Paul Austin Chandler Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology (2011 – 2016); Paul Austin Chandler Professor of Ophthalmology (2006 – 2011)
"The Gaon of Neuro-Ophthalmology"
BIOGRAPHY Born in Brooklyn, New York and educated at Amherst College, Dr. Lessell attended Cornell Medical College. His neurology residency at the University of Vermont first stimulated his interest in neuro-ophthalmology. Two years of clinical practice and research at the National Institutes of Health followed, and then another two years of research at the Howe Laboratory at Mass. Eye and Ear. Upon completing his research fellowship, Dr. Lessell entered the Harvard/Mass. Eye and Ear ophthalmology residency program.
After residency, Dr. Lessell joined the new Department of Ophthalmology at Boston University (BU) Medical Center, attaining the rank of Professor of Ophthalmology, Neurology and Anatomy. During his 18-year tenure, he was awarded their Metcalf Cup and Prize as the Outstanding Teacher at BU. In 1983, he was recruited back to Mass. Eye and Ear, as Director of the Neuro-Ophthalmology Service, where he built an outstanding clinical and teaching service, including recruiting Dr. Joseph Rizzo to the faculty. Once again, his exceptional teaching efforts garnered awards; in 2004 he received the Outstanding Teacher Award and in 2006 he was honored as a Distinguished Alumnus. Retiring as Director of the Neuro-Ophthalmology Service, he then became Director of Medical Education for the department until last year, when he took on a role of mentoring and advising faculty and trainees on their career development plans.
Dr. Lessell passed away on May 9, 2016 after a brief illness. He was surrounded by his family. Dr. Lessell was a mainstay of the Harvard and Mass. Eye and Ear Departments of Ophthalmology for more than 30 years, serving as an extraordinary teacher and leader of our educational efforts, caring for his patients as one of the most gifted diagnosticians of all time, and acting as mentor to many of our physicians. His humor, collegiality, and love for his work at Mass. Eye and Ear infused us all.
- Simmons Lessell; helped found neuro-ophthalmology field (Boston Globe, June 2, 2016)
- Simmons Lessell: The Gaon of Neuro-Ophthalmology (Journal of Neuro-Ophthalmology 2007; Volume 27(1), pp 61-73)
- Festschrift for Simmons Lessell, MD (Journal of Neuro-Ophthalmology 2013; Volume 33(4), pp e26-e27)
2016 Tribute to Simmons Lessell, MD (Joseph Rizzo III, MD)