Dr. Ronald G. Michels, a Johns Hopkins eye surgeon described by colleagues as an international leader in his specialty, died Tuesday at Hopkins Hospital while awaiting a heart transplant. He was 47.
Services for Dr. Michels, who lived in Ruxton, will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 1400 Dulaney Valley Road.
Dr. Michels specialized in surgery on the light-sensing retina through the eyeball. He had been co-director of the Retina Center at St. Joseph Hospital since October 1989 and professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins medical school.
He also had been deputy director of the Wilmer Ophthalmological Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital for 10 years. Dr. A. Edward Maumenee, who was director of the institute when Dr. Michels was a resident there, described him as a doctor who had "the highest sense of responsibility, ethics and honesty" and as possibly "the leading retinal surgeon in the world today."
Dr. Walter J. Stark, director of the corneal service at Hopkins and a longtime colleague, said Dr. Michels was one of the finest physicians Hopkins had produced and a giant in his field. "In fact, most ophthalmologists would agree that he was the pre-eminent vitreoretinal surgeon in the world today," Dr. Stark said.
Dr. Bert M. Glaser, co-director of the Retina Center at St. Joseph Hospital and a fellow professor at Hopkins, praised Dr. Michels as a teacher and as a doctor who "saved thousands of people from around the world from blindness and changed their lives forever."
Dr. Michels' work included retinal repairs on boxers, including Sugar Ray Leonard, and on an unidentified member of the Soviet Politburo in a 1979 operation in the Kremlin.
He received an award of merit and a senior honor award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the Myers Honor Award for research and a Heed Foundation Award, and wrote two award-winning textbooks.
Last year, he received an award for his 1,100-page book, "Retinal Detachment," from the Association of Medical Illustrators.
Born in Detroit, he earned undergraduate and medical degrees at the University of North Carolina.
He began his association with Hopkins as an intern in 1968, and was a resident and chief resident there.
He also studied under a fellowship at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami and was a research fellow at the National Insti
tutes of Health.
He was a member of the American Ophthalmological Society, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the Retina Society, the Macula Society, the Club Jules Gonin, the Society of Heed fellows, the Pan-American Association of Ophthalmology, the International Association of Ocular Surgeons, the Maryland Ophthalmological Society, the Wilmer Residents Association and the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute Alumni Association.
He was a member of national advisory committees, including the Vitrectomy Advisory Group at the National Eye Institute and the National Advisory Eye Council, and was a consultant to the National Naval Medical Center and the Air Force.
Dr. Michels wrote 280 professional papers and book chapters, and served on the editorial boards of several professional publications.
A member of the golf team at North Carolina, he was a member of the Elkridge Club in Baltimore. He also belonged to the L'Hirondelle Club.
He is survived by his wife, the former Alice Roberts; a son, James Randolph Michels of Ruxton; a daughter, Allison Jeanine Michels of Ruxton; his parents, Dr. and Mrs. Glenn Edward Michels of Henderson, N.C.; and two brothers, Dr. Dennis L. Michels of Kinston, N.C., and Dr. Gary E. Michels of Greenville, N.C.