1. Oct 23, 2020

Dr Crandall was more than colleague; he was a friend

The goal of Alan Crandall, MD, as teacher and mentor was to produce the best surgeons in the world.

Alan Crandall, MD, (left) shares a moment with Adrienne Graves, PhD, and Andrew Iwach, MD, co-chairpersons of the Glaucoma Research Foundation's Glaucoma 360 meeting during the event. Dr Crandall served on the advisory board of the Glaucoma 360 meeting and participated in every meeting since its inception. (Photo courtesy of the Glaucama Research Foundation)
 

The goal of Alan Crandall, MD, as teacher and mentor was to produce the best surgeons in the world. According to Randall Olson, MD, of the John A. Moran Eye Center, Dr Olson was never too busy to assist and encourage physicians, technicians, and staff around him. He also took pride in seeing his residents and fellows excel and become leaders in ophthalmology.

That thinking was not only for the team at the Moran Eye Center, but for colleagues who were touched by his presence. Many of the physicians and industry officials interviewed expressed how Dr Crandall was more than a teacher and mentor—he was a friend!

Robert Osher, MD, of the Cincinnati Eye Institute, knew Dr Crandall for 40 years. Dr Osher said his friendship with Dr. Crandall began in the early 1980s, when he and Dr Crandall were part of the original Videosymposium. The other faculty members at that symposium were: Richard Lindstrom, MD; Roger Steinert, MD; Sam Masket, MD; and Doug Koch, MD.

“While (Dr Crandall) was the quiet, humble one in the group, he was always the most experienced,” Dr Osher said. “Yet despite his celebrity status, Alan was approachable by all. Alan was warm, kind, selfless, and a man of total integrity.

“He was a consummate gentleman, an ambassador, and a man good to the core. I will miss teaching and laughing with Alan. I will miss his friendship.”

Chris Calcaterra of Glaukos and Dr Crandall became friends in the late 1990s when Calcaterra was able to secure some phacoemulsification machines for his humanitarian work overseas. Calcaterra pointed out that one of Dr Crandall’s greatest attributes was his loyalty.

When Calcaterra was contemplating a career change in ophthalmology, he turned to his friend, Dr Crandall.

“Alan was 1 of the 2 glaucoma specialists I reached out to when I was considering making the jump from Advanced Medical Optics to Glaukos,” Calcaterra explained. “His insights and support were invaluable. He mentored me and helped me to better understand clinical and surgical glaucoma.”

What Calcaterra loved most about Dr Crandall was his genuineness. He was a man who was “very comfortable in his own skin.”

“He was kind and gentle and never seemed to have a harsh word for anyone,” Calcaterra said. “He was giving of his time and to his field and was an incredible humanitarian. My respect for Alan was endless. I will miss him dearly.”

Richard Lewis, MD, of Sacramento Eye Consultants and Aerie Pharmaceuticals, outlined a litany of accolades for Dr Crandall—from compassionate and fearless to fun and cutting edge. Dr. Lewis added that if one wanted to appreciate Dr Crandall’s contributions to ophthalmology, you had to be around him.

Dr Lewis said the pair met playing basketball at an American Glaucoma Society meeting in the 1980s. A few years later, Dr Lewis wanted to learn clear cornea topical cataract surgery, so Dr Crandall invited him to Salt Lake City to view some cases.

The first case was young teenage girl with cerebral palsy. Dr Lewis pointed out how many surgeons would use general anesthesia; not Dr Crandall.

“Topical anesthesia, caring conversation with the patient combined with efficient surgery was all that was needed,” Dr Lewis said. “That morning changed my approach to ophthalmic surgery. From then on, all my cases used topical anesthesia. He opened vistas many of us didnt realize existed. We remained good friends ever since.

“We last talked about a month ago regarding a patient of mine with aniridia and cataracts—always great advice, always patient centric, and always Alan,” Dr Lewis added.

John Berdahl, MD, of Vance Thompson Vision, first learned of Dr Crandall when he was a resident at Duke University. Dr Crandall’s surgery skills were legendary. He also had a reputation of intimidating his residents and fellows. Yet, Dr Crandall “made his residents at Utah bulletproof.”

Dr Berdahl admitted he too felt intimidated. That impression changed when he met Dr Crandall.

“He introduced himself and said some kind words about our work with cerebrospinal fluid pressure in glaucoma,” Dr Berdahl said. “He had the unique ability to inspire from afar and pull out the absolute best from those he was close to.”

Dr Berdahl provided a story about one of his partners at Vance Thompson Vision, Russell Swan, MD, who did his residency at the University of Utah. Dr Swan knew firsthand how Dr Crandall pushed his residents and fellows.

Dr Swan and his co-residents would go to Dr Crandall’s house to review surgical videos.

“He was so brutal to the residents during these sessions, that his wife (Julie) would have to leave,” Dr Berdahl said. “The residents loved it. They knew that his admonition care from a place of love to hone skills the residents would carry for a lifetime.

“It is far easier to ignore than it is to teach,” Dr Berdahl added. “It is easier to stay home than travel to the vulnerable. It is easier to take than contribute. Alan was one of those rare people who definitively gave more than he took.” 

Throughout the world, there are many more friends with stories regarding Dr Crandall and his contributions to ophthalmology—far too many to list here. But, for all who called Dr Crandall “friend,” he will truly be missed!

— Mark L. Dlugoss