Mildred Mosler Weisenfeld is known in the ophthalmology community as the founder, in 1946, and executive director of Fight for Sight.
Mildred was born in Brooklyn in 1921. In 1936, she began to lose her vision, the cause of which was eventually diagnosed as retinitis pigmentosa. She became a patient of John McLean, MD, at Cornell University Medical College. When disheartened by the disease and the futile therapy available, she was urged by McLean to devote her efforts to encouraging research in eye disease. She was rebuffed by many of the organizations concerned with vision and eye disease and founded the National Council to Combat Blindness, later known as Fight for Sight, in 1946. Five modest grants for research were made in 1947. Since then, FFS has provided more than 21 million dollars in research grants.
Although the understanding of vision was rudimentary 70 years ago, Mildred understood the need for attention to research and devoted herself to advancing the then unusual idea of preventing blindness. By 1949, she was before Congress to urge the incorporation of blindness research at the National Institute of Neurology. This was one of her major contributions—a clear perception of the need to expand the focus of the National Institutes of Health to specifically emphasize visual loss.
Mildred received various awards for her efforts to advance vision research, including the Eleanor Roosevelt Award in 1951, the Citizen’s Award for Meritorious Service from the Medical Society of New York in 1962, recognition for outstanding contributions to ophthalmology in 1975 from the American Academy of Ophthalmology, San Francisco, Calif, and in 1989 from the Glaucoma Foundation, New York, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from Prevent Blindness America in 1992. She was honored with the 1996 Lighthouse Guild Pisart Vision Award.
The industry group ARVO (Association of Research in Vision and Ophthalmology) honored Mildred by establishing the Weisenfeld Award for Excellence in Ophthalmology in 1986, to annually recognize individuals for scholarly contributions to clinical ophthalmology.
In fulfilling her lifelong commitment to research into all forms of visual loss and blindness, Mildred became a role model for philanthropists in medical science. Her broad, long-term outlook and her understanding and realistic support of scientific inquiry were applied faithfully and optimistically to her personal goals for research.
Mildred received a bachelor of arts degree from Brooklyn College. She married Albert Mosler, who also had retinitis pigmentosa, in 1956. He died in 1967. Mildred died at her home in Manhattan on December 6, 1997, of lung cancer.