February 2017




Tribute to Dennis Shepard, MD

by Liz Hillman EyeWorld Staff Writer



On December 12, 2016, Dennis Shepard, MD, Santa Maria, California, a founding member of ASCRS, died peacefully at 84 years old. He was described by his colleagues as a “force to be reckoned with.”
“He’s definitely a presence that is going to be missed,” said Rami Zarnegar, MD, Shepard Eye Center, Santa Maria, California. “He was great with patients, and he was a fantastic surgeon who was always looking to improve his outcomes, always looking to come up with new ideas and new instruments. … He was never satisfied with the status quo, always looking to adapt the field and advance the care he was giving to his patients.”
Dr. Shepard was among the early adopters of IOL implantation and strove to educate his colleagues on the use of these implants. In 1974, Dr. Shepard, with John Gilmore, MD, Don Dickerson, MD, and Kenneth Hoffer, MD, created an IOL course at Santa Monica Hospital to introduce IOLs and their surgical technique to thousands of ophthalmologists. Dr. Shepard traveled the world to teach surgeons in other countries about phaco, IOL implantation, and new techniques at the time. He held nine patents.
According to his obituary published in Oregon’s Statesman Journal, Dr. Shepard served as a Hospital Corpsman in the U.S. Marines Corps in Asia. After military service, Dr. Shepard remained in Asia to perform humanitarian work with Thomas Dooley, MD, in Laos. After returning to the U.S., Dr. Shepard met and married his wife, attended George Washington University Medical School, and served his residency at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Dr. Shepard started his practice in Santa Maria in 1967 and built the renowned Shepard Eye Center in the early 1980s, which included one of the first independent surgery centers in California. Kenneth Kendall, OD, Shepard Eye Center, said he had the privilege of joining the team as managing partner in the early 2000s. What was especially noticeable to him were Dr. Shepard’s efforts to improve efficiency, Dr. Kendall said. For example, Dr. Shepard invented a light system in the 1980s that could identify which technician or doctor was in a room, or send an alert if something or someone was needed in a certain room.
Dr. Kendall said this was so useful that when the practice moved to a new location in 2015, they worked with a commercial vendor to recreate the unique system.
“Dr. Shepard extended this drive for efficiency to all processes in the office, and we still use many of the same processes and protocols to this day,” Dr. Kendall said.
Dr. Shepard’s colleagues also recalled his manner with patients.
“As a young ophthalmologist who joined the practice about the time Dennis retired, I still remember the personal connection he made with each patient,” said Randall Goodman, MD, Shepard Eye Center. “He’d enter the exam room and reach to shake the patient’s hand, and at the same time he would gently touch their forearm or elbow with his left hand. This extra touch gave the patient an added impression of how much Dennis cared.”
The Shepard name is well-known in the coastal community between Los Angeles and San Francisco, not just because so many experienced Dr. Shepard’s medical care, but because he and his wife were so active in the area. “He and his family were very involved in the community. There are many charities that have benefited from their generosity,” Dr. Zarnegar said.
According to the Statesman Journal, Dr. Shepard provided free ophthalmic services to those in need on Valentine’s Day, an event he called “Doctors with a Heart.” Local news reports recount how he and his wife used to provide weekly meals for the homeless and supported the local community college, the public library, and local law enforcement. Dr. Shepard co-founded the GenSpan Foundation, a Santa Maria-based group dedicated to bringing together different generations. He is also credited with chairing the largest medical alumni fundraising campaign for George Washington University Medical School.
Dr. Shepard is survived by his wife, Franziska, his son, Daniel Shepard, MD, daughter, Nancy Martz, son-in-law, Michael Martz, and four grandsons.

Tribute to Dennis Shepard, MD Tribute to Dennis Shepard, MD
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