Honoring Retina Pioneer

Matt LaVail’s groundbreaking work in understanding retinal degenerations and strategies that might slow disease progression continue to shape the field that he pioneered,” says ophthalmology department chair Stephen D. McLeod, MD.

Matt LaVail, PhD, joined the UCSF faculty in 1976. He authored more than 190 research publications and edited 17 books on inherited and environmentally induced retinal degenerations.

“Matt’s teaching style and creative passion inspired my own research.” – Dr. Jacque Duncan

Pivotal Discoveries

In 1981, the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology honored Dr. LaVail with the Friedenwald Award. One of the most prestigious awards in the field, it recognized his pivotal discoveries that advanced understanding of inherited retinal degenerations and potential treatment strategies. The Friedenwald Award became one among many honors. “Matt’s discoveries paved the way for the first clinical trials of treatments that may allow patients to keep their sight longer than ever before,” says retina specialist Jacque Duncan, MD. “These therapies provide hope to patients.”

Leadership – Global and Local

Dr. LaVail led many efforts to accelerate progress for vision patients. As a founder of the International Symposium on Retinal Degeneration, he brought together leading and junior research scientists. His lab model of inherited retinal degenerations benefited researchers worldwide. He long served on the Scientific Advisory Committee of Foundation Fighting Blindness.

At UCSF, Dr. LaVail served as mentor and advisor for Dr. Duncan when she arrived as junior faculty. “Matt’s teaching style and creative passion inspired my own research,” she says.

Nurturing expertise for rising generations of vision research leaders may be his greatest legacy of all.