Medical School Inaugurates the Harold F. Falls Collegiate Professorship
in Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
Anand Swaroop is named the first Fall Professor
Alok, Manju, Anand and Kanchan Swaroop
Allen Lichter, Harold Falls and Paul
Photos: Martin Vloet
The University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center was the location
for ceremonies on May 29 that marked the inauguration of the
Harold F. Falls Collegiate Professorship
in Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, and the installation of Anand Swaroop,
Ph.D., as the first Falls Professor. The event was attended by, among many
others, Harold Falls (M.D. 1936, Residency 1939) and members
of his family, and by Paul
A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Eye Institute and a member
of the department’s faculty.
Swaroop earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry at the Indian Institute of Science
in Bangalore in 1982 and spent several years as a postdoctoral fellow in molecular
biophysics, biochemistry and human genetics at Yale University before joining
the U-M faculty in 1990. He is a professor in both the Department of Ophthalmology
and Visual Sciences and the Department of Human Genetics, as well as a faculty
member in the graduate programs in neuroscience and cell and molecular biology.
He directs the Sensory Gene Microarray Node at the Kellogg Eye Center and heads
the U-M Center for Retinal and Macular Degeneration.
Internationally recognized as a premier researcher in retinal diseases and
retinal gene regulation, Swaroop was one of the first vision scientists in
the country to receive funding from the National Eye Institute to establish
a microarray facility, which supplements genetic eye research at Michigan.
He also initiated a major program in age-related macular degeneration to identify
genes that predispose elderly individuals to this devastating blinding disease.
Swaroop, like Harold Falls before him, serves as mentor to a growing group
of future genetic scholars. In addition to a number of postdoctoral, graduate
and medical students, almost 50 undergraduate students have conducted research
projects in his laboratory during the last dozen years.
Harold Falls is a founder of medical genetics in North America and was the
undisputed master of clinical genetics in ophthalmology for nearly half a century.
In 1941, Falls helped establish, and then direct, the first heredity clinic
in the nation; the clinic evolved into the Medical School’s Department
of Human Genetics. During his long association with the U-M, Falls was responsible
for describing a rich collection of ophthalmic genetic
histories that are still being studied today. A visionary who saw the importance
of genetics long before most others did, he was beloved by the medical students,
residents and fellows who had the good fortune to study under him. One of his
residents described Falls as “a devoted teacher, a diligent observer,
a superb diagnostician, a superior parliamentarian and a humane physician.”
Falls set precedents unimaginable for the time. He made major contributions
to the description and detection of Cooley’s anemia, X-linked retinitis
pigmentosa, juvenile retinoschisis, retinoblastoma, ocular albinism, blue cone
monochromacy, and the Indiana form of amyloidosis.
Paul R. Lichter (M.D. 1964, Residency 1968), chair of the department and Kellogg’s
director, notes that Swaroop is a natural choice for the Falls Collegiate Professorship. “He
has gained wide recognition for his genetic studies of the retina…I am
pleased that Dr. Swaroop will hold a professorship named for a Michigan faculty
member who had profound insights into medical genetics well ahead of his peers
in any medical field.”