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Dr. Joseph Besharse to retire as Research Director of the Eye Institute effective June 30

Joseph Besharse, PhD, FARVO, will retire from his role as Marjorie & Joseph Heil Professor in Ophthalmology and Research Director of the Froedtert and MCW Eye Institute effective June 30, 2020.

This memo is from Deborah Costakos, MS, MD, R.D. and Linda Peters Professor in Ophthalmology, Chair, Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences

besharse_joseph_2016I wish to share with you that Joseph Besharse, PhD, FARVO, will retire from his role as Marjorie & Joseph Heil Professor in Ophthalmology and Research Director of the Froedtert and MCW Eye Institute effective June 30, 2020. Please join me in congratulating him.

During his time at MCW, Dr. Besharse has provided exemplary research, scientific and institutional leadership and outstanding mentoring at every academic level. He was recruited to MCW in 1997 to chair the department of cell biology, neurobiology and anatomy. When stepping down from the chair role in 2016, Dr. Besharse took the opportunity to support his fellow vision researchers and recruit new talent as research director of the Froedtert and MCW Eye Institute, a role which he has excelled in.

Dr. Besharse received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology and Chemistry from Hendrix College and later both his Master of Arts in Zoology and PhD in Zoology and Physiology from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University.

Prior to coming to MCW, Dr. Besharse spent 12 years as a faculty member at the Emory University School of Medicine before taking over as chair of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, where he served in that capacity for eight years.

His effort to understand the visual system has been recognized with numerous awards, including MCW’s Distinguished Service Award in 2015 – the institution’s highest faculty and staff honor. In 2016, Dr. Besharse received the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology’s Proctor Medal in 2016, one of the organization’s most prestigious honors. The award acknowledges Dr. Besharse’s lifetime of research studying the fundamental organization and assembly of the photoreceptor as well as the molecular mechanisms that underlie neurodegenerative diseases of the retina. His discovery of the circadian clock in the retina that could run itself and adjust to the outside world independent of the brain was the foundation of an entirely new field of study around internal clocks in other organs.

Dr. Besharse’s research has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health since 1975, and he has published more than 125 articles in peer-reviewed journals. Additionally, he has presented at local, regional, national and international conferences.

My colleague, Dr. Besharse, has said he would like his legacy to be, “as a researcher, a chairman, and a research director who used his experience to recruit some of the best faculty, staff and students and help them develop to their fullest potential,” and I believe he has accomplished that and more.

Please join me in expressing sincere gratitude and deep appreciation to Dr. Besharse for his many contributions and his commitment to research at the Medical College of Wisconsin over his 23-year tenure. I wish him the best in this next chapter of his life.