Former Ophthalmology Chief, Caring Physician, Dies

May 03, 2010

Albert C. Snell Jr., M.D., a former head of the Division of Ophthalmology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, died April 20 at the age of 97.

Calling hours will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 22, at the Rochester Academy of Medicine, 1441 East Avenue.

Dr. Snell, a member of the School of Medicine and Dentistry faculty for 34 years, was the first full-time faculty member in the Division of Ophthalmology and also the first full professor. He became chief of the division in 1961 and remained in that position until 1978.

Dr. Snell was instrumental in the establishment of a research program in ophthalmology at the School of Medicine and Dentistry. He also was an active clinician and teacher. He trained more than 25 residents. His work helped pave the way for the establishment of the Department of Ophthalmology in 1978.

“Dr. Snell will always be a remembered as a superb teacher, clinician, and humanitarian,” said Steven Ching, M.D., associate professor of ophthalmology. “Patients to this day remember his kind and caring demeanor. Residents and students appreciated his keen intellect and encouragement. Under his guidance, the division of ophthalmology expanded in many areas.”

Warren Hill, M.D., who practices in Mesa, Ariz., described Dr. Snell as “one of the most kind and thoughtful physicians I have ever known.”

“He had a gift for making those around him feel at ease,” Hill said. “Most of all, I enjoyed the historical perspective he gave to the residency program. He was 70 years old when we first met and I'll always remember our conversations about ophthalmology as practiced in another era.”

Dr. Snell, a Rochester native, was the son of Albert C. Snell, M.D., who organized the Division of Ophthalmology in 1929.

After graduating from the School of Medicine and Dentistry in 1940, Dr. Snell completed his residency at the Wilmer Eye Institute of the Johns Hopkins Hospital. After practicing privately with his father for several years, Dr. Snell concluded that a career in teaching best suited his talents and interests. He returned to the School of Medicine and Dentistry, where he became the first full-time faculty person in the Division of Ophthalmology.

In 1982, Dr. Snell received the Albert David Kaiser Medal for Distinguished Service, awarded by the Rochester Academy of Medicine for all that “the University and the medical community have gained from his quiet, wise counsel.”

Dr. Snell is survived by his wife of 68 years, Margaret Snell of Rochester, two sons, David Snell of Bronxville, N.Y, and Stephen Snell of Rochester, a daughter, Sarah Singal of Rochester, and seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Donations in Dr. Snell’s memory may be made to the Albert C. Snell Sr. Memorial Fund of the Rochester Area Community Foundation, 500 East Ave., Rochester, N.Y. 14607, and the Palliative Care Program at the University of Rochester Medical Center, 601 Elmwood Ave., Box 687, Rochester, N.Y. 14642.

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