Obituary – Professor Doctor Jan Gerbern Frans Van Worst 1928 – 2015
Our eyes are windows to the outside world’
The news that Prof Dr Jan Worst had passed away reached me on my way to a presentation for the Dutch residents in Utrecht where I had to lecture on the history of intraocular lenses.
This topic was his passion throughout life and I realised how fortunate I was to transfer his knowledge to our residents.
Prof Worst was born in Arnhem, The Netherlands, in 1928. He studied medicine in Utrecht. He specialised in ophthalmology at the University of Groningen, where he was admitted his doctoral degree summa cum laude with a dissertation on Pathogenesis of Congenital Glaucoma, in 1966.
Prof Worst was appointed Head of Department, “Chef de Clinique”, in Groningen after admitting his doctoral degree. Nine years later, he set up an ophthalmic practice together with ophthalmologists Ludwig and Massaro at the Heresingel in Groningen. He operated on in a regional hospital, Refaja Hospital in Stadskanaal, and later in one of the first extramural clinics called OMC North.
Improving the fate of the blind and visually handicapped was important to him and he travelled a lot to develop the ophthalmic profession worldwide. He always was aware of the needs of the less fortunate in the world and volunteered as an ophthalmologist in countries such as India and Nepal.
Prof Worst was a great inventor of intraocular lenses and surgical instruments. He put great effort in keeping solutions simple yet effective to help him and his peers perform better operations. The invention of the patented “iris-claw” lens yielded international recognition. This lens, nowadays known as ArtiLens, has been slightly updated through the years, but in its core is still the same. The lens still is one of the best solutions for certain patients to regain sight. In many countries in Europe and Asia, this lens is still one of the first solutions for treating aphakia.
In The Netherlands, Binkhorst and Worst were pioneers in artificial lens implantation and saw the need for creating a platform to exchange scientific ideas and clinical results in the field of intraocular lens implantation. Their perseverance and passion resulted in the establishment of The Netherlands IntraOcular Implant Club (NIOIC, 1977) which is still the forum for exchanging innovations in anterior segment surgery in The Netherlands. Jan Worst communicated the affection for his profession and his vision on the innovations in our field in a passionate and unprecedented manner. His dedication in the quest for innovation led to the birth of Ophtec BV, the company that has been professionally directed by his wife Anneke Worst, and now prospers in the capable hands of his son Erik-Jan Worst. The heritage of Prof Worst is, and will remain, visible in the performance of this innovative company.
His scientific curiosity and interest in the anatomy of the vitreous, which he researched in his famous domestic basement laboratory in Haren, connected his name to scientific discoveries and papers in this field. His discoveries and lectures played a significant part in the research of macula degeneration.
Prof Worst was also awarded many recognitions, amongst which was the prestigious “Binkhorst Award” by the American Intra Ocular Implant Society in 1976.
In 1990 Prof Worst was appointed Professor at the Boerhaave Institute at the University of Leiden to enable further scientific research of the anatomy of the vitreous.
In 1994 Prof Worst was decorated with knighthood, in Dutch, “Officier in Orde van Oranje Nassau”, by Queen Beatrix. Prof Worst also received many other honours.
In 1999, he was the first recipient of the IIIC’s GF Jan Worst Medal and Lectureship with which IIIC honors leaders and innovators in the field of ophthalmology. In 2000, the ESCRS awarded him the Binkhorst medal lecture at the XVIII Congress of the ESCRS in Brussels, Belgium.
Jan Worst will be remembered as one of the true pioneers of intraocular lens design and surgery. The ESCRS extends its sympathy to the family and friends of Prof Worst, a truly great man and a great ophthalmologist.
Prof Dr Rudy Nuijts is Chairman of The Netherlands IntraOcular Implant Club, and Treasurer of the European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons