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James "Jim" Puklin
Viewing: May 29, 2019 (Wednesday) from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Location: DeVol Funeral Home, 2222 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C.

On May 22, 2019 James “Jim” Puklin finished his final marathon after 44 years of practicing medicine. Puklin, an award-winning ophthalmologist, world-renowned clinical researcher in retinal eye disease, professor of ophthalmology and marathon runner, died in Washington, D.C. He was 78. 

Dr. Puklin graduated Dartmouth College in 1963 and was forever proud of his time as part of The Big Green. After Dartmouth, he obtained a medical degree from the Chicago Medical School and trained as an ophthalmologist at Northwestern University. His entire career was spent in an educational environment: first at Yale University from 1976-1985, then at Northwestern University from 1985-1989 and Wayne State University’s Kresge Eye Institute from 1989 to 2014. He also trained numerous residents in ophthalmology and fellows in vitreoretinal surgery.

Dr. Puklin was a professor of ophthalmology – he taught hundreds of residents and fellows over the course of his career beginning at Yale University, then Northwestern University in Chicago and retired from Wayne State University in Detroit. Dr. Puklin worked tirelessly, both as a clinician and researcher, to ensure that those who entered his offices – often those in the greatest need – had the best care possible to maintain their vision.

His research focused on perpetuating eye health. Dr. Puklin was often asked to share his knowledge and gave hundreds of presentations around the world. The NIH, and other leading institutes, recognized Dr. Puklin’s expertise and funded his research in diabetic retinopathy, ocular melanoma, HIV eye disease and macular degeneration. Over the years, Dr. Puklin published 58 scientific articles, and six book chapters on retinal eye disease and treatment.

As a recognized leader in retinal eye diseases, Dr. Puklin was appointed to the Medicare Evidence Development Coverage Advisory Committee of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (MedCAC). Dr. Puklin advised MedCAC on medical procedures that may provide effective and appropriate patient outcomes and should be covered by Medicare as reasonable and necessary. He also oversaw the research activities at Wayne State University as chair of the Human Investigation Committee.

Dr. Puklin’s influence on research in retinal eye disease extended worldwide. He invited ophthalmologists from Russia to his office in Detroit for training and supported young vision scientists from the country in coming to the U.S.

The Association for Research and Vision in Ophthalmology (ARVO) honored Jim in 2015 and named him as one of 22 outstanding clinical researchers honored as a Gold Fellow. ARVO Fellows serve as role models and mentors for individuals studying vision and ophthalmology research. To commemorate the occasion, his wife Gail Daubert along with many of Jim's friends celebrated the event and presented the gold medal to him at Arden Courts memory care center. Dr. Puklin proudly wore the gold medal atop his signature bow ties every day as he held office hours in the Memory Care library – which was dubbed “Dr. Puklin’s office.”

Jim and Gail met in Chicago in 1985 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Jim had done his ophthalmology residency at Northwestern Medical School and returned at the request of the Chairman of Ophthalmology, who was trying to lure Jim away from Yale. Jim was “touring” the operating rooms when he ran into Gail, then an operating room nurse. Gail escorted Jim out and suggested he do his touring on Michigan Avenue and make sure to stop at Garrett’s popcorn for a Chicago mix. Jim ended up accepting a position as a professor of ophthalmology at Northwestern, where they worked together for several years before Gail headed to law school in Washington D C and Jim left Northwestern to head up a program at the Kresge Eye Institute in Detroit. They remained great friends for years. Jim finally proposed at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York during intermission of Turandot. They settled into their Georgetown home and Jim continued to commute weekly to Detroit for his practice and professorship at Wayne State while Gail, a partner at Reed Smith, worked in DC.

Jim was a determined athlete who loved running. He entered more than more 80 marathons, from the race’s birthplace in Greece to the streets of Boston, where he laced up 32 times. On weekends, he could be spotted – easily in his brightly hued outfits – running or biking along the banks of the Potomac in D.C. or the Hudson in New York.

Jim was enchanted by the opera and still moved with the music of the greats, even in his final hours. For many years he and Gail were mainstays at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and the Kennedy Center in Washington.

As his disease progressed, Jim carried his most important documents in his briefcase, which was with him at all times. These documents included some of journal articles he authored, notes on medical research, photos of friends and family, and a photo of him and some of the first researchers to study insulin pump therapy for diabetes through a Kroc Foundation grant – all along with his Costco Executive membership card.

Jim is survived by his wife, Gail; sister Marty Fitzhugh; first wife Diane and their daughters Eileen and Barbara; grandchildren Julian, Riley, Lenny and Sophia; Gail’s loving family in Maryland, D.C., Wisconsin, Illinois, Florida and Minnesota; beloved caregivers Ann-Marie, Vina, Walter and Lily; and Ziggy, who will miss all the extra treats.

Family will receive friends on Wednesday, May 29 from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. at De Vol Funeral Home, 2222 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. (Complimentary valet provided).

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Alzheimer’s Foundation.


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