skalka retirementHarold Skalka, M.D, Professor and former Chair of UAB Ophthalmology, has retired from the department. Dr. Skalka served as Chair from 1981 to 1997. 

“If anyone kept the department running through the eighties and nineties, it was Dr. Skalka,” says Lanning Kline, M.D., Professor and former Chair from 1998 to 2011. “He was a very humble leader who had an all-encompassing vision of what the department could become including education, patient care, and research.”

Skalka began working for the Eye Foundation Hospital in July 1973 after completing his service at the Air Force at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. At this time, Ralph Levine, M.D., was serving as chair, but left to enter private practice. A new chair was needed, and Skalka rose to the occasion becoming interim chair from 1974 to 1976, until the appointment of Roswell Pfister, M.D. He also left to enter private practice. In 1981, Skalka was appointed Professor and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology, Director of the Ellen Gregg Ingalls Eye Research Institute, and Director of Residency Training. At this time, the Eye Foundation Hospital had not been purchased by UAB, so Skalka made it a point in his career to collaborate with doctors and researchers across the campus, something that had not yet happened within Ophthalmology. 

SkalkaDuring his time as Chair, he recruited 4 full-time researchers who planted the seed for the nationally ranked research program the department has today. He was instrumental in developing the Rich Lecture Series which is now in its 24th year and seeks to energize scientific discovery by hosting top-notch vision scientists at UAB. Skalka was also behind the establishment of the Nathan E. Miles, M.D., Endowed Chair of Ophthalmology. Cynthia Owsley, PhD, MSPH, is the current holder of the chair and has been consistently funded by the National Institutes of Health for her research that focuses on the impact of aging on vision. 

Many residents during his tenure remember him as a teacher who was able to create a lasting education with an emphasis on clinical care, Kline says. Residents were prepared to graduate and go out into the community, comfortable with the knowledge they gained, and establish their own practice. In his own career as a clinician, Skalka was a nationally, and internationally, known in the field of ophthalmic echography. 

Skalka resides in Sterrett, Alabama, with his daughter and is looking forward to tending to his land and getting back into his hobbies that include woodworking and gardening. 

A reception was held in his honor during the department’s 2018 Annual and Clinical Research Symposium at Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort and Spa on May 18. For photos from the reception please click here.