Dr. Irvin Pollack, a native Baltimorean and founder of the Krieger Eye Institute, passed away after a battle with melanoma on March 1. He was 85 years old.
Pollack, born on Lanvale Street in 1931, received his bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and pursued medicine at the University of Maryland Medical School.
His wife of 58 years, Marlene, said he’ll be most remembered for “his tremendous sense of humanity and caring,” and those who knew him personally were deeply impressed by his professional accomplishments.
Pollack spent only a few years of his life away from Baltimore when he pursued an ophthalmology residency at Washington University in St. Louis. When he returned to Baltimore in 1962, he worked at JHU’s Wilmer Eye Institute and became the head of the glaucoma clinic. He later became the chief of ophthalmology at Sinai Hospital in 1983.
“Irv was uniquely generous to colleagues and famously gracious to staff and patients,” said Dr. Harry Quigley in a written statement. “His bedside manner in the office brought calm to worried glaucoma sufferers, and his quiet affection for everyone who had the good fortune to work with him was legendary.”
He worked with Dr. Herman Krieger Goldberg and Zanvyl Krieger to create the Krieger Eye Institute in 1991. Although he stepped down as chairman in 1998, his commitment to the institution remained, as it steadily grew in size and reputation.
“[Pollack’s] greatest influence was on those residents and fellows fortunate enough to have trained with him,” said Dr. Donald Abrams, who worked with Pollack, in a eulogy. “His clinical and surgical skills combined with his unparalleled bedside manner made many of his trainees the physicians that they are today.”
Marlene added that the Krieger Eye Institute closed its facility on the day of Pollack’s funeral to allow employees to attend.
The American Glaucoma Society, of which Pollack was one of 13 founding members, had its annual meeting on the day of his funeral. In recognition of his work, doctors from around the country paid their respects to his legacy during the meeting.
His colleagues noted Pollack’s contributions to the study of how glaucoma develops and his work with the late Dr. Arnall Patz, which led to the first use of lasers in glaucoma for iridotomy and trabeculoplasty.
“The world is a much better place because he was in it.”
— Grandsons Jared, Seth and Brett Nelson
While Pollack was a legendary pioneer for the work he did as an ophthalmologist, his family remembers him as a selfless, loving individual whose positive energy was felt even in his last days.
“He always said, ‘Never better,’” said Carol Pollack-Nelson, referring to her father’s response when someone greeted him. “He was still saying it to the very end. We [told him he didn’t] have to say that, [but] a few days before he passed, someone called him and he still said it.”
Brian Pollack and Linda Klitenic said their father had a unique ability to advise those who asked for his help without lecturing them and an ability to guide without forcing his position on others. John Pollack added that his father’s influence as a role model became more impactful as he grew up.
Pollack’s warmth and affection was felt deeply by all 10 of his grandchildren.
“He loved his whole family, his garden and his ice cream. Oh, and hugs. He loved big hugs,” said siblings Ethan, Lauren and Jordan Pollack, 16, 14 and 11 respectively.
“I will never forget the amazing person that my grandfather was and I will always try to spread the kindness and wisdom that he so effortlessly exuded,” said Samantha Klitenic, Pollack’s oldest granddaughter.
His older grandsons, Jared, Seth and Brett Nelson, added, “The world is a much better place because he was in it.”
Pollack was a devoted member of Chizuk Amuno Congregation, where he served in several positions including vice president of the congregation, chairman of the school board and as a member of the board of directors.
While Pollack was enthusiastic in celebrating and observing all of the Jewish holidays, Linda said, he loved one thing above all else.
“What he loved the most and what made him the most happy was being married to my mother. He loved her more than anything in the world.”
Dr. Irvin Pollack is survived by wife Marlene Pollack (née Chernak); children Linda Pollack (Marc) Klitenic, Carol (Howard) Nelson, Dr. John (Dr. Susan) Pollack, Shelley Pollack Schwartz and Brian Pollack; sister Ethel (Abraham) Berlin; grandchildren Samantha Klitenic, Seth, Jared, and Brett Nelson, Ethan, Lauren and Jordan Pollack and Noah, Benjamin and Josh Schwartz. Pollack was preceded in death by his brother, Morton L. (Harriet) Pollack.