Richard Gordon Scobee, MD (1914-1952)

 

Born in Sherman, Texas in November 1914, Scobee spent his childhood in El Paso. He obtained his undergraduate degree in pre-medical studies from Rice University graduating in 1935. He received his medical degree from the University of Texas Medical School at Galveston in 1939 followed by an internship at Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth. He moved to St. Louis in July 1940 for specialty training in ophthalmology at Washington University and passed his boards in 1943, becoming a full-time assistant in the ophthalmology department. 

In 1944, Scobee joined the US Air Force assigned to the Department of Ophthalmology of the School of Aviation Medicine at Randolph Field in Texas. This promoted his interest in ocular motility, as there were many unanswered questions about normal and abnormal ocular muscle balance. Heterophoria was of predominant interest in pilot training and many of his projects were published by the School of Aviation.

He returned to Washington University in Sept 1945 as instructor and director of graduate training in ophthalmology. He revamped the “Muscle Clinic” which he supervised until his death. He was promoted to assistant professor in 1948.

Although younger, Scobee was a contemporary of Hermann Burian and Walter Lancaster and became involved in formalizing the training of ophthalmologists. As a visiting instructor, he taught didactic courses at the Lancaster Course held in Maine during the summer. During this time orthoptics was developing as a career. Having taught in the Lancaster 6-week instruction course for orthoptists, Scobee was aware that few ophthalmologists understood the sensory aspects of strabismus and realized the value of having his own orthoptists in St. Louis. In 1948, with two certified orthoptists, an orthoptic training program was established at Washington University. Five orthoptic students completed training before his death four years later.

He was known as a gifted teacher with the rare talent of being able to present complex concepts in simple terms. His lectures on ocular motility formed the basis of his still popular textbook. The Oculorotary Muscles was published in 1947; its second edition had just been completed at the time of his death. He was a member and board examiner of the newly-formed American Orthoptic Council, and helped develop the scientific sessions and instructions courses for orthoptists held at the annual Academy of Ophthalmology meeting at the Palmer House in Chicago. In 1951 he was instrumental in establishing the American Orthoptic Journal of which he was its first Editor.

Despite his schedule, he found time to enjoy his family, his stamp collecting and was addicted to detective stories. Known for his enthusiasm and energy, Scobee’s sudden and untimely death in June 1952 at the age of 37 caused a shockwave of grief throughout the ophthalmology community, especially among those in the emerging specialty of strabismus. This loss was paramount at Washington University where he was described as the “spark plug” of the department. It was a sad twist of fate that just before Scobee’s sudden death he had completed the obituary for his friend and colleague Walter Lancaster who had died 6 months before, and the two obituaries appeared together in the same issue.

The AACO Richard G. Scobee Memorial Awards

Dr. Richard Scobee, known as “The Father of American Orthoptics,” was a revered clinician and teacher of ocular motility and strabismus. He served as a founding member of the American Orthoptic Council and founded the American Orthoptic Journal, first published in 1951. He sponsored one of the first orthoptic training programs in the United States. Because of his invaluable contributions to the fields of ocular motility and American orthoptics, Dr. Scobee is remembered and honored by the AACO each year.


The Richard G. Scobee Memorial Lecture is an invited lecture delivered by an orthoptist or ophthalmologist, alternating yearly. Orthoptists are selected for outstanding scientific contributions to the field of orthoptics through novel research, publications and presentations while maintaining active membership in the AACO. Ophthalmologists are selected for outstanding scientific contributions to their field, and longstanding support of orthoptists and orthoptic organizations. This esteemed honor is chosen by the AACO Richard G. Scobee Memorial Committee, consisting of past orthoptist lecturers and regional representatives.

Scobee Memorial Lecturers


The annual Richard G. Scobee Student Award is presented to a newly AOC certified orthoptist for excellence in scholastic achievement, receiving the highest combined score on AOC certifying examinations. The recipient’s AOC accredited orthoptic program is duly recognized and awarded for excellence in orthoptic instruction and training.

AACO Scobee Student Award Winners