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In honor of our centennial anniversary, we are featuring members of our optometry community — past and present — each day of 2023!

See below for this week’s profiles.

This Week, We Are Celebrating…

November 27th

Leon Lewis, MD

Leon Lewis (1904 – 1977) is a Berkeley Optometry Hall of Fame Member. Dr. Lewis was born in Butte, Montana. Attending the University of Washington, he received a BS degree in 1925 and an MD from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1929. His internship was spent at a San Francisco Hospital. From there he was an attending physician at Sonoma State Home, Department of Institutions, and in the wards in Bellevue Hospital in New York City. During World War II, Dr. Lewis joined the US Naval Medical Corps and was stationed at American occupied Okinawa. As the Senior Medical Officer of the Military Government Research Center, Commander Lewis led a research team isolating the Japanese B encephalitis virus. Following WW II, Dr. Lewis returned to the Bay Area to continue his medical career in academia and maintain a private practice in internal medicine in Berkeley, California.

A natural teacher, Dr. Lewis was a lecturer at Cornell University Medical School and Stanford University School of Medicine. He taught Industrial Medicine at the University of California Medical School, San Francisco, and was an Associate Professor of Industrial Health at the School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley. Later, he was appointed medical lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Optometry.

Dr. Lewis developed a special expertise and became an internationally known authority on industrial health and rehabilitation. He served as a consultant to the World Health Organization and travelled extensively in the Middle East inspecting industrial safety conditions, sanitation and health education. He was the US delegate to the Fourth International Poliomyelitis Conference in Geneva. He served as Chairman, Advisory Committee, Aid to the Needy Disabled Program, California State Department of Social Welfare, and Chairman, California Governor’s Conference on Aging, and was appointed a consultant to the US Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

His hospital and administrative positions included Chief, Communicable Disease, at Highland-Alameda County Hospital, Chief, Poliomyelitis Service, Highland and Fairmont Hospitals, Director of Respiratory and Rehabilitation Center, Fairmont Hospital, Chief, Rehabilitation Service, Herrick Memorial Hospital, and Chief of Rehabilitation services at Contra Costa County Hospital in Martinez, California.

His resume includes 37 research and clinical care publications. He was a co-author of the authoritative resource book “Rehabilitation for the Care of the Disabled and Elderly.”

He was on the American Board of Internal Medicine, the American Board of Industrial Hygiene, and was licensed to practice medicine in California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. Honor society memberships included Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, Phi Lambda Upsilon, Delta Omega and Alpha Omega Alpha. Dr. Lewis was also listed in the publications American Men of Medicine, American Men of Science, Who’s Who in the West, Who’s Who in Industrial Medicine, and Contemporary Authors.

The period following World War II has been called the “American inquisition” as a number of states, California included, along with the US government, enacted laws to sanction and punish anyone believed to have “subversive” ideas. Controversy in California began when the Board of Regents of the University of California required a “loyalty oath” of all employees. This was followed by a California state statute, the Levering Act, which contained a blanket abjuration of affiliation provision, and required all public employees to take a new oath. Dr. Lewis rose in protest stating “the Levering Act is an intolerable perversion of law in the eyes of liberty loving Americans.” As a further protest, he resigned his faculty position from the University of California. Ultimately, after many legal battles, courts recognized the defects in loyalty oaths and Dr. Lewis was encouraged to consider a return to academia.

Return he did, and in 1962 he was appointed as medical lecturer at University of California, Berkeley School of Optometry. This new role brought with it a whole new set of challenges. It was during this time that anti-optometric sentiment from ophthalmology was perhaps at its highest. Organized medicine was strongly opposed to physicians teaching in optometry schools. In fact, an American Medical Association resolution even stated that it was unethical for a physician to teach in a school of optometry. Threats were made vaguely implying the possible loss of hospital privileges, and physicians were ordered to end all connections to optometry schools. Dr. Lewis had long recognized the potential role that optometry could have in public health, and as a champion of academic freedom he chose to ignore the protestations of organized medicine.

Instead, he became determined to not only continue teaching, but to do all he could to encourage and nurture the growth of optometry as a profession. He understood that this development could only be achieved through education and he believed he was in the right place at the right time to help achieve this goal. He loved his role as an educator and brought his background in medical education and clinical experience to the classroom. He was an amazing teacher, down to earth and non-condescending. His lectures in physical medicine and pathology were concise and easy to understand. He made the subject relevant to optometry knowing that optometrists were often the first to encounter systemic diseases. Throughout his lectures was the gentle reminder that health care should be given with a generous dose of compassion, empathy and recognition of the dignity of the human spirit. He was kind and generous, sharing his knowledge with all who wished to learn.

His association with optometry did not come without a cost. There were objections and derisive comments from colleagues and even an occasional loss of friendship. But he taught because he felt a duty to provide the best education possible to those who would care for others. In the end, it was Dr. Lewis who persevered and, as a result, so has optometry.

Dr. Lewis’ national and international standing in the medical profession gave credence to optometric education, making it difficult for others to criticize. It was through the action of individuals such as Leon Lewis that UC optometry began the transition of “trade” status to that of a respected member of the health care professions.

It is with admiration and a deep sense of appreciation and gratitude that we recognize Dr. Leon Lewis for his dedication, foresight, and courage and for the influential role he had in the development of optometric education and the growth of the optometric profession.

November 28th

Elizabeth “Liz” Doty

Liz is a Clinic Administrator on the Clinic Admin Team. She was previously an automotive service technician. She worked at a BMW dealership for 7 years. During her time working in the automotive industry, she acquired many skills that she has utilized here at the Herbert Wertheim School of Optometry & Vision Science. Liz’s greatest strengths are her attention to detail and unique approach to increasing efficiency. Liz is warm, friendly, sociable, and a valued member of the Berkeley Optometry staff.

November 29th

Baldemar Torres, BS

Baldemar Torres is a third-year optometry student at the Herbert Wertheim School of Optometry & Vision Science. Baldemar’s family is from Monterrey and Guadalajara, Mexico and he is the only member of his family that was born in the US. Although he was raised in San Jose, California, he considers himself a Central Valley native. Baldemar completed high school in Merced, California and grew very attached to his community there. He graduated from Stanford University with a degree in Biology and Modern Languages and he later worked in the tech industry in San Francisco and Tel Aviv, Israel as a software engineer.

Baldemar served as Co-President of his class during his first-year, but he later transitioned to the role of AOSA Trustee-Elect, where he served as the lead for the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion interest group. He enjoys networking in the industry and you will often see him send updates from optometry conferences throughout the year. He believes that as a student it is never too early to start making a difference, so speak up to your school administrators if there’s ever any change you want to bring to the school. Watch Baldemar’s “Day in the Life” video by clicking this link.

November 30th

Peter Bergenske, OD

A 1978 graduate and Gold Retinoscope recipient, Dr. Peter Bergenske currently resides in the Spokane, Washington area. He had been the Director of Clinical Research and Development at CIBA Vision, then Director of Professional and Clinical Support for Alcon Vision Care, retiring from that position in March of 2014. Prior to joining Alcon/CIBA Vision he was an associate professor and Director of Contact Lens Services at Pacific University. Dr. Bergenske practiced for over 20 years in Madison, Wisconsin prior to joining Pacific University. He is a past chair of the Section on Cornea and Contact Lenses and Refractive Technologies of the American Academy of Optometry and a past president of the American Optometric Foundation. He is a Topical Editor for Optometry and Vision Science and served many years as a director of the Academy’s Fellows Doing Research Special Interest Group. In 2022 he was selected to the Academy’s inaugural “Hall of Fame” list.

Although technically “retired” he continues to see patients on a volunteer basis at the Union Gospel Mission in Spokane and has an ongoing consulting relationship with Alcon. On select summer Saturdays you can hear him play his guitar at the local farmer’s market near his home in Otis Orchards, Washington.

December 1st

Farayha Zaidi, BS

Farayha Zaidi is currently a third-year optometry student at the UC Berkeley Herbert Wertheim School of Optometry and Vision Science. She was born and raised in Islamabad, Pakistan until she moved to Chicago, IL at the age of 11 and graduated in 2019 from Benedictine University with a Bachelors in Health Sciences. During that time frame, she also got married and lived in Canada for 6 months prior to moving to the Bay Area in 2020. Before applying to optometry school, she took a gap year to be working in the field of optometry as an optometric technician while also adjusting to her newly married life.

She chose optometry as her career choice because of being heavily involved in her grandmother’s eye care due to her needing surgery to remove a tumor from her eye. Ever since, she has always been interested in how our eyes can be affected from external or internal factors. Her major goal in life is to use her profession to give access to underserved populations the chance to have the best vision care and become an expert at ocular diseases before they advance to later stages.

Farayha was an active member of the Sunshine Committee of her class because she always loves to bring a smile to everyone around. She is extremely grateful to be a part of Berkeley Optometry and to be receiving the best education in order to become a great doctor. During her free time, Farayha loves to spend time with her husband, hang out with friends, watch horror movies, and travel.

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