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Arthur L. Rosenbaum dies at 69; UCLA pediatric eye surgeon

Rosenbaum discovered new ways to correct crossed eyes. His techniques have been adopted worldwide. In recent years, he was the target of protests by animal rights activists.

July 01, 2010|By Valerie J. Nelson, Los Angeles Times
  • Arthur L. Rosenbaum was targeted by animal-rights activists for his research.
Arthur L. Rosenbaum was targeted by animal-rights activists for his research.

Dr. Arthur L. Rosenbaum, a prominent UCLA pediatric eye surgeon known for innovative research on eye- muscle disorders who late in life was targeted by animal-rights extremists, has died. He was 69.


FOR THE RECORD: In an obituary that appeared in Thursday's LateExtra section, Arthur Rosenbaum's last name was given as Rosenberg in one instance.

Rosenbaum died June 22 at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center of complications from treatment related to cancer, said his wife, Sandra.

He discovered new ways to correct strabismus, or crossed eyes, and had treated more than 10,000 children with the disorder. Many of his techniques have been adopted all over the world, colleagues said.

During 36 years at UCLA, Rosenbaum had served as chief of pediatric ophthalmology and strabismus at the Jules Stein Eye Institute since 1980 and had been vice chairman of ophthalmology at the David Geffen School of Medicine since 1990.

Adept at developing new surgical approaches for unusual eye-muscle disorders, Rosenbaum was also a sounding board for colleagues worldwide, said Dr. Sherwin Isenberg, a UCLA ophthalmologist who had worked with Rosenbaum for more than 30 years.

"When he got a really bizarre case, he'd usually seen it three or four times before," Isenberg said. "He was known for his research and was a wonderful educator."

One of Rosenbaum's enduring contributions was an original approach to Duane's syndrome, a congenital eye-movement disorder that involves the miswiring of eye muscles.

He proposed swapping the muscles that move the eye up and down with those that move the eye from side to side. After such surgery most patients regain the ability to look toward their ear, said Dr. Joseph Demer, who will succeed Rosenbaum as the institute's chief of pediatric ophthalmology and strabismus.

By the early 1980s, Rosenbaum was pioneering the use of Botox to straighten misaligned eyes. More recently, he had explored ways to electrically reactivate eye muscles that had been paralyzed during a stroke.

Three years ago, anti-animal research activists began harassing Rosenberg, although he was primarily a surgeon with ties to only one animal-research project. He led a team that conducted research on a primate to test ways to correct severe cross-eyed conditions.

In mid-2007, an unexploded firebomb was found under Rosenbaum's car at his home near UCLA. A group known as the Animal Liberation Brigade claimed responsibility for the incident.

At the time, Rosenbaum had trouble believing it had happened, he told Science magazine in 2007.

UCLA condemned the incident as part of a campaign of "criminal and deplorable tactics" against its faculty and researchers.

Over subsequent months, the activists staged several protests at Rosenbaum's home, concealing their faces and using bullhorns to shout insults, the magazine reported.

During the protests, he took "a strong stand for the medical benefit that animal research provides," Demer said. "He had not been involved in that research for a couple of years and tried to make that point publicly."

The son of an ophthalmologist, Arthur Louis Rosenbaum was born Aug. 20, 1940, in St. Louis.

He earned his bachelor's degree in 1962 from the University of Michigan and his medical degree from Washington University in St. Louis in 1966.

After completing his residency in ophthalmology at the Jules Stein Eye Institute in 1972, he rejoined the faculty the next year after completing fellowships in pediatric ophthalmology and the diagnosis and therapy of retinoblastoma.

While performing strabismus surgery on her 3-year-old son, Rosenbaum met his future wife in 1978. Her son's calm demeanor during the operation led Sandra, who holds a master's in child development, to work with Rosenbaum to create a program to prepare pediatric patients and their families for surgery.

On his office wall, Rosenbaum kept a framed golf ball and score card, a tribute to a hole-in-one he made in 2007 at Brentwood Country Club.

Besides Sandra, his wife of 25 years, Rosenbaum is survived by son Steven Burick and a sister, Jane Sitrin.

A public memorial at UCLA is pending.

valerie.nelson@latimes.com

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