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Branna and Irving Sisenwein Professorship in Ophthalmology

BRANNA and IRVING SISENWEIN, both natives of New York and each living well into their 90’s, lived much of their long years inspired by the goal of eradicating blindness. Irv was in his 30’s when he was diagnosed with chorioretinitis and endured the successive loss of sight to total blindness over the subsequent decades of his life. Irv and Branna traveled to many countries to consult with renowned physicians and medical scientists and to offer ophthalmology residents the opportunity to study Irv’s relatively rare condition.

There are few venues related to sight that were not influenced and touched by Branna and Irv, including Guide dogs, books for the blind, mobile units that conducted visual screening for inner city children, seminars on corneal donor transplantation, lecture series and many other initiatives. After years of running charity events to support a number of foundations, Branna and Irv started their own upon permanently locating to Palm Springs, California. The Desert Visionaires hosted golf and tennis tournaments, auctions and annual charity events to expand resources for retinal research, a goal which became more poignant as Branna ultimately lost her sight from macular degeneration.

Branna and Irv lived full lives that included international travel, opera, theater, the arts, sports and demonstrating that their visual disabilities did not equate with being handicapped. Many of their remarkable experiences were captured in Branna’s autobiography, Blind Vision, the forward of which was written by Dr. Peter McDonnell.

The MARYLAND E-NNOVATION INITIATIVE FUND (MEIF), administered by the Maryland Department of Commerce, offers a state match to private funds raised in support of endowed chairs at Maryland’s higher education institutions. The Branna and Irving Sisenwein Professorship was funded by a grant award from the Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative Fund to match the Wilmer Endowed Fund in honor of Branna and Irving Sisenwein, created by Mrs. Sisenwein’s bequest.