In a career spanning four decades, Dr. Howard Gimbel has received dozens of awards and distinctions. But his greatest satisfaction comes from restoring or improving the vision of his patients. “Helping individual patients and teaching other doctors so they can help their own patients are the greatest satisfaction and honour I can imagine for any ophthalmologist,” he says.
Born into a pioneering farm family in southern Alberta, Dr. Gimbel was destined to be an innovator. After studying medicine at California’s Loma Linda University and completing an ophthalmology residency at White Memorial Medical Centre in Los Angeles, Dr. Gimbel began the practice of ophthalmology in Calgary.
Early in his career, Dr. Gimbel’s fascination with emerging technology ensured that his patients would receive the most sophisticated care available. In 1974, he became the first Canadian surgeon to use an ultrasonic probe to remove cataracts. When he combined this technique with the new intraocular lens implants, the demand for the surgery grew exponentially. The procedure didn’t require hospitalization, so, with the co-operation of the Foothills Hospital, Dr. Gimbel introduced outpatient eye surgery to Canada. As demand increased, Dr. Gimbel built the first freestanding ophthalmic surgery centre in Canada. Working with anesthesiologist Dr. Roy Hamilton, Dr. Gimbel and his staff were able to provide a pleasant and reassuring surgical experience. Invasive tests and procedures, hospital gowns and unnecessary medications were eliminated. Patients were able to maintain their regular routines and could enjoy the comforting presence of their families throughout the clinical and surgical experience. The unique opportunity to be entrusted with the care of so many patients naturally led Dr. Gimbel to develop new techniques which, by improving the safety and results of cataract surgery, became world standards.
Dr. Gimbel’s patients were so enthusiastic about their care that they encouraged him to share his techniques by donating funds for research and teaching activities. With his wife, Judy, he founded the Gimbel Eye Foundation to handle these donations and it continues to support numerous research, educational and service projects designed to improve surgery outcomes and the delivery of patient care which has helped to impact medical and surgical practices around the world.
While innovating new techniques in cataract surgery, Dr. Gimbel also became active in refractive surgery, bringing the original radial keratotomy procedure to Alberta in 1984. In 1990, Gimbel Eye Centre was the site of the first Excimer laser refractive surgery in Canada. Since then, tens of thousands of patients have enjoyed a new world of clear vision without corrective lenses. Dr. Gimbel remains an active cataract and refractive surgeon and continues to innovate and to offer the latest techniques and technologies to his patients. He also sits on a number of international investigative committees, medical advisory and editorial boards.
Dr. Gimbel not only offers cataract and laser refractive surgery to his patients but he also offers intraocular lens refractive procedures as alternatives for individuals who do not qualify for LASIK or PRK.
Dr. Gimbel’s love of research and teaching has been a distinguishing feature of his career. He has co-authored two best-selling textbooks in addition to numerous book chapters. He is a frequent contributor to medical journals and is in high demand as a speaker at ophthalmology conferences. Because he cannot accept every invitation to attend conferences and other meetings, Dr. Gimbel has produced numerous surgery training videos and beamed live surgery via satellite from Gimbel Eye Centre to over 25 major conferences around the world. He has been an honoured guest speaker at many universities including Harvard, Tufts, Duke, Johns Hopkins, UCLA, USCF and the Mayo and Cleveland Clinics. Further afield, he has lectured in universities and hospitals across Asia and Europe. Dr. Gimbel also holds academic appointments at the University of Calgary and the University of California San Francisco and in 2000 was named Professor and Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at Loma Linda University, a position which requires monthly commutes to California while maintaining an active clinical and surgical practice in Calgary.
Of the many distinctions Dr. Gimbel has received, a few are particularly noteworthy. In 1992, Dr. Gimbel was invested into the Alberta Order of Excellence in recognition of his ability to combine technical excellence and innovation with the art of caring in an atmosphere of open communication. The American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery has twice honoured Dr. Gimbel — awarding him the Binkhorst Medal in 1994 and later listing him as one of the “25 Most Influential Ophthalmologists of the 20th Century.”
As a committed Christian, Dr. Gimbel chooses to trust in God for guidance and strength. He also lives and promotes a healthy lifestyle. His wife Judy is his valued personal and business partner and her enthusiasm, dedication, and hard work have made her an integral part of Gimbel Eye Centre. Together they enjoy traveling, hiking and spending time with their five grown children and twelve grandchildren. With an appreciation for fine music, Dr. Gimbel enjoys listening to classical music, singing in choral groups, and playing the musical saw and trombone.