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Peter L. Gehlbach

The inaugural J.W. Marriott Jr., Professor of Ophthalmology, PETER L. GEHLBACH, M.D., PH.D., presents a distinguished career as a dedicated clinician-scientist and teacher at the Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Dr. Gehlbach was recruited by National search as Wilmer’s inaugural Maumenee Scholar twenty one years ago. Beginning at the level of instructor, and rising through the ranks, he has been promoted to full professor. Dr. Gehlbach now holds his primary appointment in the Wilmer Eye Institute, with a secondary appointment in the Johns Hopkins University, Whiting School of Engineering.

During his very productive career at the Wilmer Eye Institute and Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Gehlbach has developed an exemplary track record of interdisciplinary scholarship, representing the fulfillment of the “One University” mission. He has authored a high impact body of publications, secured continuous N.I.H. and other grant funding, demonstrated a strong commitment to teaching excellence, and has become internationally recognized for a superlative record of clinical care—formally recognized by Johns Hopkins Medicine for both excellence and professionalism. His dedication to service in the academic and non-academic communities is broad and enduring. It is exemplified by consecutive and bipartisan appointments by three Maryland governors, to serve as a trustee—advocating on behalf of the blind of Maryland—for nine years.

Dr. Gehlbach’s innovative research accomplishments are remarkable for foundational work in understanding ischemia-reperfusion injury in the retina, retinal gene therapy and retinal antiangiogenic molecules in therapy. Over the last decade—with the generous support of Mr. Marriott and the many friends of Wilmer—Dr. Gehlbach, as a member of an interdisciplinary team of talented Johns Hopkins engineers—has succeeded in making transformative contributions to the emerging field of robotics, as applied to retinal microsurgery.

Prior to his time at Wilmer, Dr. Gehlbach attended public schools in the granite mining town of Barre, Vermont. He was first broadly recognized as the Harmon Bove Scholar-Athlete of the state. He earned his bachelor and medical degrees from the University of Vermont, where he stood out as having excellent surgical skills. These were further developed by general surgery residency training in Chicago after which he enrolled in formal Ph.D. training in cellular and integrative physiology under Dr. Richard Purple at the University of Minnesota. His thesis work elucidated a role for iron in ischemia and reperfusion injury of the retina and was among the early works describing basic mechanisms of oxidative injury in the eye. In further advancing his now keen interest in the retina, he pursued ophthalmology residency training at Washington University in St. Louis, and then retina fellowship training at the Casey Eye Institute, Oregon Health and Science University—where he was honored as both a Heed, and a Knapp Fellow. He has since earned his business of medicine certificate from the Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins University.

The inaugural director of the former Wilmer Gene Therapy Vector Center, he has served as the director of the Wilmer Echography Center as well as the Retina Fellowship Training Program at the Wilmer Eye Institute. He is most proud of his many students and mentees—so many of whom are enjoying productive careers and life success. He extends a special thank you to his late Ph.D. mentor Dr. Richard Purple for empowering him to “think outside of the box” and to have the courage to live with the consequences. Dr. Gehlbach would also like to thank and honor his late mother Mary Anne Ciresoli Granai for the life lessons learned from her indomitable spirit, acts of kindness, unwavering perseverance, and grace in hard times. Dr. Gehlbach’s own life joys are found in his three daughters—Kyle, Kyndal and Korbyn; in catching up with his brother (David) and father (Louis) in Vermont; sharing time with old friends and perhaps in doing a little fishing.

Finally Dr. Gehlbach expresses profound gratitude to Mr. Marriott and his family for their trust, confidence, faith and exceeding generosity over the years.