Dr. Rosario Hernandez-Neufeld, D.D.S., international expert on glaucoma and the optic nerve, lost her battle with cancer on March 17 in Santiago, Chile.
Her innovative research was funded by the NEI and NIH for more than 20 years and continues to have significant impact in the field of glaucoma. She served as a chartered member of the NIH Anterior Eye Disease Study Section and participated on several NEI program planning panels. From 1999-2002, she served as a member of the National Advisory Eye Council. “She gave widely of her time and experience in her service to the field and to the NEI,” said Dr. Loré Anne McNicol, director of the Division of Extramural Programs at NEI.
A native of Santiago, Dr. Hernandez-Neufeld earned her D.D.S. degree from the University of Chile Medical and Dental School in 1973. She joined the faculty in the Department of Experimental Morphology and pursued her long-standing research interest in human diseases that affect connective tissues. In 1979, Dr. Hernandez-Neufeld joined the Departments of Anatomy and Medicine at New York Medical College, focusing her work on steroid target cells in ocular tissues, salivary glands, and the oral cavity. She returned to Santiago to continue her research at the University of Chile from 1981-1984.
Soon after returning to New York Medical College in 1985 to conduct research on steroids and the eye, Dr. Hernandez-Neufeld was recruited to the Schepens Eye Research Institute in Boston to investigate changes in the structure and function of the optic nerve related to glaucoma. She discovered the prominent role played by astrocytes in glaucomatous optic neuropathy, which became the focus of her continuing research. During her decade-long tenure as professor of ophthalmology and neurobiology at Washington University in St. Louis, she received both the Senior Investigator Award and the Lew R. Wasserman Merit Award from Research to Prevent Blindness. In 2006, she moved to Chicago and joined the Department of Ophthalmology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine as the George and Edwina Tarry Professor of Ophthalmology.
Dr. Hernandez-Neufeld is survived by her husband, Arthur H. Neufeld, Ph.D., professor of ophthalmology at the Feinberg School, and their four children and six grandchildren.