‘They saved my eyesight, and maybe my life’

Ed Gleason

In 2015, to mark National Doctors’ Day, Ed Gleason of Estill Springs, Tennessee, was one of many patients who have chosen to give to the Medical Center in honor of physicians whose work has changed their lives. Gleason, a retired Air Force colonel, was sent by a local ophthalmologist to Vanderbilt to see Paul Sternberg, M.D., in 2009 when a suspicious mole was discovered on the back of his eye. By 2015 the lesion had grown into a melanoma, and Sternberg referred him to Anthony Daniels, M.D., an ocular oncologist at VUMC, for brachytherapy, a procedure in which radioactive iodine seeds are sewn to the wall of the eye, deliver a high dose of radiation directly to the tumor, and are removed a week later.

Since the procedure is targeted it does less damage to the surrounding structure of the eye – the eyelashes, retina, optic nerve – and there are fewer complications. Gleason, 77, credits Sternberg and Daniels (shown with Gleason) with saving his life and his eyesight. He is doing well, and is seen at the Vanderbilt Eye Institute (VEI) every six months.  He is grateful for the time he has to spend with his wife, Janice, three sons and seven grandchildren, and recently took three of his grandchildren to Walt Disney World for several days.

Gleason chose to make a financial gift to VEI in honor of his medical team. “Had they not taken the quick action when they did, I might be telling a totally different story. It would have gone beyond what they could treat,” he said. “They’ve been so responsive, taking time to answer all my questions. I know they’re a busy group, but they’ve always been very good about helping me.”

Sternberg said that Gleason’s gift, and gifts of others in honor of their physician are more than just an expression of gratitude. “I think the fact that Mr. Gleason made a gift is a reflection of an extraordinary relationship built between a patient with a severe potentially devastating diagnosis and his physician.

“Whether it’s to help care for other patients who may not be as fortunate or to support research into the causes of and treatments for their condition, it’s a wonderful gesture,” Sternberg said.