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Miss Ida

No matter how you look at it, Miss Ida Lucy Iacobucci is a woman of vision. As a widely admired orthoptist at the W.K. Kellogg Eye Center for nearly 50 years and an associate professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, she is a devoted practitioner, a legendary teacher and a tireless worker who is totally dedicated to her patients, her students and the University of Michigan .

Affectionately and universally known as Miss Ida (due in large part, she says, because younger patients found it difficult to pronounce her last name), she specializes in the evaluation, treatment and management of strabismus—the misalignment of the eyes—in children and adults. She is also a leading investigator in the search for new methods of treating so-called lazy eye, a condition known as amblyopia that cannot be corrected by glasses or contact lenses.

The clinic within the Skillman Children’s Eye Care Center where she still works with patients twice a week was named after her in 1995, and in 2005 Miss Ida took the unusual step of tapping into her own financial resources to establish the Ida Lucy Iacobucci Orthoptic Clinic Fund.

“Orthoptics,” she explains, “has been my life’s work and life-long passion.

This fund ensures that money will be available to provide eye care for people who cannot afford it. Since I love my department, the fund can also be used to a limited extent for training orthoptic students, or acquiring computers and books.”

Her intense loyalty to the University of Michigan and her fascination with her chosen career field began as a teen growing up on Detroit ’s east side.

“I was 12 or 13,” Miss Ida recalls, “and I had an eye problem. My father brought me to Ann Arbor , and they treated me for about a month. They cured me, and I loved everything about the experience.”

She joined the Department of Ophthalmology in 1957 after completing orthoptic training at the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Iowa . Her energy and enthusiasm led to the establishment of the department’s clinical and teaching programs in orthoptics, and she has trained more than 250 ophthalmology residents.

Under her guidance and influence, the programs she helped develop gained international recognition, and she has written numerous articles detailing her ground-breaking work in the highly specialized field. Miss Ida’s peers have recognized her many contributions to the field, awarding her the Lancaster Award, the highest honor given by the American Association of Certified Orthoptists.

Miss Ida still lives in a house built by her late father in St. Clair Shores , Mich. , and her sister, Lena , lives next door. She has cut down her clinical workload in recent years, but makes the trip to Ann Arbor to spend two days a week in her clinic. “There is nowhere I’d rather be,” she declares, “and there is nothing I would rather do. I really do love this place.”

—This article, written by John Barton, first appeared in Leaders & Best magazine’s Spring 2006 issue.

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