July 2008





Remembering an insightful, innovative EyeMail member

by J. E. “Jay” McDonald II, M.D.


Dr. Joel Shugar was a great teacher and friend for many via EyeMail

Examples of Dr. Shugar’s clinical contributions: piggyback IOL implantation, adapted from the January 2006 EyeWorld, pages 56 and 57.

Source: Joel Shugar, M.D., MSEE

On May 26 of this year, in a tragic parachuting accident, ophthalmology prematurely lost one of its bright and shining stars, Dr. Joel Shugar of Perry, Fla.

Those who frequented the ASCRS Internet forum had come to not only know and respect Joel as a knowledge base and reservoir of information, they also knew him as a generous colleague and friend who would take the time to digest the most complicated surgical situation and then graciously replay it with an ingenious, thoughtful state-of-the-art road map to post-op success.

It was as if each of the hundreds of EyeMail members “looking in” had an instant consult to their most worrisome case.

Joel’s passion for surgical perfection radiated with each of the numerous paragraphs of advice or opinion that he posted. Always apparent in Joel’s verbal demeanor was his focus on patients, service, and giving. Joel’s words and deeds will live on through the words hearts and deeds of his colleagues … you and me as we serve our patients. A day does not go by that I do not personally utilize an ophthalmic technique that Joel taught or helped me refine. His presence will be missed. His surgical legacy and personal spirit of commitment to perfection and patient care I will always feel by my side.

Thanks Joel, we will miss you but never forget you. Here is what some other EyeMail members had to share on Joel’s untimely passing.

The pain of Joel’s death still hasn’t gone away. On an almost daily basis for 10 years, Joel and I corresponded on and off EyeMail. I could always count on him for sage advice. Given our similar ages (he was 49, I am 46), we happened to be at like stages in our careers and faced the same challenges in developing not only our surgical skills, but also our practices with the construction of surgery centers. We both have small children, and learning of his passing, I say to myself how easily it could have been me. We finally got to meet when he was in Savannah, Ga., about six months ago. We shared a dinner with our wives and his young son, Adam. In person, Joel was as charming as he was in print, and clearly we all recognize how talented he was. Joel, I will miss you.

Richard Schulze, Jr., M.D.

Savannah, Ga.

I never met Dr. Shugar personally but always valued his knowledge and insights on this list, with which he was always so generous. Certainly via forums such as this, his impact was felt and will be missed by ophthalmologists and their patients all around the world. I know that parachuting was one of his passions, and I am glad that he was doing something he loved.

Lee Wan, M.D.

Oxnard, Calif.

I am deeply saddened by this tragedy. Joel and I used to post here on this list that we “drank the same Kool-Aid” since I tended to follow his teachings closely. Just this morning I used epi-Shugarcaine and his Sidewinder phaco needle—little did I know that he had passed. My blessings and wishes to his family during this difficult time.

Uday Devgan, M.D. Los Angeles

Joel Shugar’s tragic death will be felt as far away as here in South Africa. My patients and I benefitted enormously from his wisdom and willingness to share his knowledge.

Clive Novis, M.B.B.Ch. South Africa

I am in utter shock and terribly saddened. Joel was a unique person and an extremely talented surgeon. He will be severely missed, but our memories of him and his work will always be remembered. Joel was a visionary, ahead of his time and always eager to teach and learn—but most of all, he was a true gentleman. I would want his family to know how much he meant to us all and how much he helped us in our daily lives, not to mention the thousands of patients who have benefitted from his expertise. I want his son to know how much of a remarkable man he was.

Shugarcaine lives on for eternity.

Ike Ahmed, M.D. Mississauga, Ontario

I knew Joel professionally as we have had several mutual interests, dating back to piggyback IOLs. I held him in the highest regard in life, as I do now after his death. My concerns are for his family as his void cannot be filled. We as a group are blessed to share opinions with many colleagues, while his children and wife will always sense his absence. His death is a tragedy for so many.

Samuel Masket, M.D. ASCRS Past President Los Angeles

I am stunned and saddened along with all my colleagues, many of whom, like me, never had the pleasure of meeting Joel face to face. But we didn’t have to for inspiration. His zest for life and enthusiasm for his craft rang clear in his constant teaching and frequent contributions via this forum. And I was inspired by him—inspired to try new techniques, look at problems more creatively, and to keep the patient’s best interest first. I hope it is some small comfort to his wife and son and to know that he will forever be remembered as an esteemed surgeon and physician of remarkable insight. My heart goes out to them and to his staff in this hour of terrible loss.

David B. Leach, M.D., F.A.C.S.

Moscow, Idaho

Though I never got the chance to meet Joel, I felt like I “knew” him intimately via this discussion forum, from our many “conversations.” I use many of his innovations in my practice, and I know I speak for all of us when I say that “he will be missed” is a gross understatement.

Parag A. Majmudar, M.D. Chicago

While I never had the privilege to meet Joel, he was a giant among giants as far as I can tell. His contributions to the world of ophthalmology are numerous, and I use his “Shugarcaine” mixture on each and every case. I will miss his mind, his thoughtfulness, and his altruism as an ophthalmologist. May his family find comfort amongst each other during this very dark time.

Michael Loeffler, M.D. Lighthouse Point, Fla.

I was shocked and saddened to hear of Joel’s untimely death.

I have known Joel for a number of years through contacts at meetings. More recently, I have enjoyed his insightful postings on the Cataract EyeMail list.

He has truly been an innovator in our profession. He will always be remembered as the developer of “Shugarcaine,” although he also came up with many other innovations and ideas.

His passing is a loss not only to all of us personally, but also to ophthalmology.

Luther Fry, M.D. Garden City Kan.

I did not know Joel personally but rather as an “Internet buddy.” He was always willing to give sound advice and great ideas, and I will truly miss him. He helped me with a patient last fall and his advice (to send the patient for an external carotid bypass) surely saved the eyesight and probably the life of the patient. My heart goes out to his family.

Paula A. Hicks, M.D.

Yankton, S.D.

I too am shocked and depressed at the news of Joel’s passing. He was a good friend, an email collaborator on some mutual areas of interest, and we had just prepared an article for publication on intracameral dilation. Although he was my junior in years, his rigorous science as well as his humanity made me consider him a key mentor. He encouraged me to publish for the first time in years, helping to define an optimal intracameral regimen. I have used Shugarcaine for several years and converted to epi-Shugarcaine in the past two years as a routine method of pupil dilation. I think that along with some of the other inventions (Sidewinder tips) and processes (Rx of nanopthalmic eyes with piggyback IOLs) will cement his memory in our everyday lives.

I last spoke to Joel during Memorial Day weekend to review our plans for future project collaboration. He will be sorely missed, and his input will be irreplaceable for all of us. My greatest comfort was that in the last call, he felt excited to be able to spend the weekend doing what he enjoyed the most, group skydiving. h

William G. Myers, M.D.

Skokie, Ill.

Editors’ note: If you are not following these threads on the ASCRS Web discussion, you are missing the latest developments in cataract, refractive, glaucoma, and business practices. To join ASCRS eyeCONNECT (formerly called EyeMail), where you can receive and exchange the most current thoughts about the hottest topics in ophthalmology, search archives, and more, log onto www.ascrs.org or www.eyespacemd.org.


J.E. “Jay” McDonald II, M.D., is the EyeMail editor. He is director of McDonald Eye Associates, Fayetteville, Ark. Contact him at 479-521-2555 or mcdonaldje@mcdonaldeye.com.

Remembering an insightful, innovative EyeMail member Remembering an insightful, innovative EyeMail member
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