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Saiichi Mishima, MD

  • Presented: 
  • Recognition: 
    ASCRS Ophthalmology Hall of Fame


"Dr. Mishima was a brilliant pioneer in the field of corneal physiology and a teacher and mentor of the highest caliber. He was selflessly devoted to the tripartite mission of academic medicine and—as a scholar and leader—left behind a priceless legacy to all of us who strive for excellence in the field of ophthalmology. His recognition as an ASCRS 2013 Ophthalmology Hall of Fame inductee is an honor richly deserved."

Joan W. Miller, MD, FARVO
Chief and Chair, Department of Ophthalmology
Harvard Medical School
Massachusetts Eye and Ear
Massachusetts General Hospital

Saiichi Mishima, MD, a leader of Japanese ophthalmology, was born in 1927 in Osaka, Japan. He entered the prestigious Tokyo University Medical School in 1945, where he began his ophthalmology training a year later, followed by academic positions at Kanto Teishin Hospital and Tokyo Medical and Dental University. In 1959, Dr. Mishima was awarded a year-long scholarship to the Institute of Ophthalmology in London, where he studied the fluid regulation in the cornea and its implications with David Maurice, PhD, a leading experimentalist in the field.

After returning to Tokyo University for a year, Dr. Mishima headed to Boston for a two-year stint at the Cornea Unit of the Schepens Eye Research Institute—then named the Retina Foundation—to study the imbibition pressure of the corneal stroma. He spent another three years researching the corneal endothelium and its pump function at the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.

In 1968, Dr. Mishima returned to Tokyo University. Three years later, he was appointed to full professor and chairman of the country’s foremost ophthalmology department. He was elected by his colleagues to leadership roles in professional organizations, including president of the Japanese Ophthalmologic Society; director and dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Tokyo University Hospital; secretary general of the 1978 International Congress.

In the early 1980s at Schepens Eye Research Institute, Dr. Mishima, in collaboration with Dr. Richard A. Thoft, established the concept of centripetal movement of the corneal epithelium, and his groundbreaking work has shed new light on the importance of the limbal epithelium. His series of findings have had an enormous impact on this subject, ultimately contributing to the development of the corneal stem cell theory.

In 1987, Dr. Mishima retired from chairmanship at Tokyo University and became director of the Tokyo Kosei-Nenkin Hospital, a position he held for 10 years. He also continued his scholarship, producing “The History of Ophthalmology in Japan” and “International Biography and Bibliography of Ophthalmologists and Vision Scientists.”

During the past 30 years, Dr. Mishima’s primary focus was the research and development of new therapeutic modalities for the cornea. Following this path, his group recently established the system of cultivated mucosal epithelial stem cell transplantation and cultivated corneal endothelial transplantation.

In July 2005, Dr. Mishima died from complications of severe rheumatoid arthritis. He is survived by his wife Tomiko, two children, Minako and Nobuhiko (an ophthalmologist), and two grandchildren.

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