Healthy World, Healthy Nation, Healthy You

Know Thyself . The Difference Between Health, Wellness, and Being “Average”

George L. Spaeth, M.D.
Esposito Research Professor
Wills Eye Hospital/Jefferson Medical College


George-L.-SpaethGeorge L. Spaeth went to Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia, and then majored in history at Yale College (Phi Beta Kappa), following which he attended Harvard Medical School (Alpha Omega Alpha).  After an internship at the University of Michigan and graduate work at the University of Pennsylvania and an ophthalmology residency at Wills Eye Hospital, he served for two years in the Public Health Service as a clinical fellow at the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Blindness in Bethesda.  He was Director of the William and Anna Goldberg Glaucoma Service and Research Laboratories at the Wills Eye Institute/Jefferson Medical College from 1968 to 2007, where he is now the Louis J. Esposito Research Professor.

He has published over 360 articles in peer-reviewed journals, many hundred commentaries in various formats, over 100 book chapters, around 200 editorials, and 18 books, several of which have been translated into other languages, including Chinese. His surgical text is used in many countries around the world and a fourth edition is currently being prepared.  He serves on the editorial boards of six journals, and was for many years Editor in Chief of Ophthalmic Surgery.  Fellows he has trained work in 34 countries on six continents, and include the current or past presidents of the American Glaucoma Society, the European Glaucoma Society, the Chinese Glaucoma Society, the Pan-Arab-African Glaucoma Society, the Brazilian Glaucoma Society, the Chilean Glaucoma Society, and the Christian Medical College in Lahore India. His fellows are chairs of departments of ophthalmology in the United States and internationally and directors of many glaucoma services around the world. Dr. Spaeth himself was founding member and the first President of the American Glaucoma Society.  He was the founder and is current president of the Glaucoma Service Foundation to Prevent Blindness and served as the chair of the Ethics Committee of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

As a resident at Wills Eye Hospital, he discovered the disease homocystinuria and published the early work on the condition, including the use of pyridoxine as successful treatment. Since then his research has centered primarily on glaucoma, especially related to quantitative measures of the clinical characteristics, such as the anterior chamber angle, the optic disc and disability caused by glaucoma.  Dr. Spaeth enjoys lecturing, and he has presented 30 named lectureships, which give him the opportunity to present his views on the importance of individualizing patient care and helping people celebrate their lives, which he demonstrates in his busy practice.

Dr. Spaeth’s other interests include many years as President of Philadelphia Physicians for Social Responsibility (for which he received the Newberg Peace Award), and the arts.  He is an emeritus member of the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Ballet and the Philadelphia Bach Festival; he writes poetry, composes music, plays the piano, and plays the organ on Squirrel Island, where he has summered since 1944.  His flower and vegetable garden won first prize in the City Garden’s contest of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society in 2004.


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3 Key Points:

  1. Set yourself up to be responsible for being healthy or sick as you cannot delegate this to anyone else.
  2. Thoughtful consumers need to have baseline measures for their health and then this information can be used for ongoing monitoring over a life time.
  3. Science is not always perfect. Ask your clinician–is a test result of other particular findings always “abnormal”? Perhaps some warrant a yellow light of caution for further studies, some a red light–yes it is always considered abnormal under all circumstances and for some it may be a green light in that in the face of no other clinical signs, it may be not in the normal range, but is not necessarily “abnormal” for you.

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