June 7, 2017

Remembering Dr. Roger Steinert

Below you will find a message regarding the passing of Dr. Roger Steinert, the Irving H. Leopold Professor and Chair in the Department of Ophthalmology, professor of biomedical engineering, and founding director of the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute.

A world-class researcher in the fields of cataract surgery, corneal transplantation and refractive surgery, Dr. Steinert was a dedicated member of our campus community who fervently advocated for the establishment and success of the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute. His bold vision, inspiring research, and devotion to his colleagues, students and patients made him one of the most accomplished, celebrated and well-liked experts of his time.

We will truly miss his profound influence at UCI but know his legacy will live on in the meaningful work performed at the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute. Please join me in offering our sincere condolences to his wife, April, his family and his loved ones.

A message from Howard J. Federoff, MD, PhD, Vice Chancellor, Health Affairs and CEO, UC Irvine Health and Michael J. Stamos, MD, Interim Dean, UC Irvine School of Medicine

Dear colleagues,

It is with profound sadness that we inform you that our dear friend and colleague Dr. Roger Steinert has lost his battle with brain cancer. Roger was surrounded by his wife April, family and loved ones at their home in Colorado.

Roger was the Irving H. Leopold Professor and Chair, Department of Ophthalmology, professor of biomedical engineering in the UC Irvine School of Medicine and director of the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute.

A giant in the world of ophthalmology, Roger was among the foremost experts in the fields of cataract surgery, corneal transplantation and refractive surgery. Roger’s clinical and research breakthroughs stretch back to the early days of laser refractive surgery. His lab group was second in the world to study excimer laser applications for refractive surgery and LASIK and he was in the first group of surgeons to conduct FDA trials of phototherapeutic keratectomy and photorefractive keratectomy.

The Massachusetts native came to UC Irvine in 2004 after 23 years on the faculty at Harvard Medical School. He relocated to Orange County in part because of the historically strong ties between UC Irvine researchers and the area’s thriving eye-care industry. That cooperation has helped translate discoveries made in the lab into sight-saving medical devices and therapies.

Under Roger’s leadership, the Department of Ophthalmology grew to become the home to some of the nation’s top clinicians and researchers in retinal disease, glaucoma, corneal disease, macular degeneration and refractive surgery. As director of the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, Roger led the bricks and mortar development of a state-of-the-art home for Orange County’s only academic vision health center, a place where pioneering research continues to lead to sight-saving treatment.

His family referred to him as Superman and to those of us who had the privilege of knowing him, Roger, in fact, was. After his diagnosis with glioblastoma, more than two-and-a-half years ago, he concluded his term as interim dean and remained involved in managing the department and eye institute he worked so hard to build. During his battle with cancer, Roger entrusted his care to UC Irvine’s specialists and it was typical of his gracious nature and desire to teach that he sought to share his experience with others through our own Live Well magazine. 

Roger received numerous awards from the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, including the Life Achievement Honor Award and the Ophthalmology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lifetime Innovator Award. He was honored for advancing eye care with the Presidential Recognition Award and the prestigious Barraquer Award from the International Society of Refractive Surgery, the Visionary Award from the Foundation Fighting Blindness and the Distinguished Clinical Achievement Award from Harvard Medical School. The New England Ophthalmology Society presented Roger with the Distinguished Achievement Award and the Hawaiian Eye Foundation recently honored him with the Corby Memorial Award. He was also honored by the Cornea Society with the Claes Dohlman Award for Teaching Excellence. 

He consistently appeared in both America’s Top Doctors and Best Doctors in America lists in the areas of cataract, cornea and refractive surgery. He had served as president of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery and was the author of numerous peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters and textbooks. In 2016, Roger was honored with an endowed chair.

However, Roger was more than the sum of his accomplishments and awards. For a generation of ophthalmologists, he was a leader, teacher, mentor, friend and colleague whose daily commitment to excellence provided inspiration and guidance. This legacy will live for future generations through the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, whose existence is due to Roger’s vision and persistence.

A quote Roger gave in a 2011 article about his groundbreaking bladeless approach to corneal transplantation sums up his lifelong commitment, “What could be better in life than helping to preserve and restore vision?”

Please keep Roger and his family in your thoughts. We will circulate details about memorial services when they become available.


Howard J. Federoff, MD, PhD
Vice Chancellor, Health Affairs
CEO, UC Irvine Health 

Michael J. Stamos, MD
Interim Dean
UC Irvine School of Medicine