Dr. Lorenz E. and Anastasia U. Zimmerman

Ophthalmic pathologist and nurse had met during service in Army

(2003 Brian L. Zimmerman )
March 30, 2013|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Dr. Lorenz E. Zimmerman, the founder of modern ophthalmic pathology, who spent his nearly 60-year career studying diseases of the eye, died March 16 of complications from an infection at the Blakehurst retirement community in Towson. He was 92.

His wife of 53 years, Anastasia U. Zimmerman, a registered nurse who had served as a major with the Army Nurse Corps, died Tuesday of congestive heart failure, also at Blakehurst. She was 89.

"Without a doubt, Dr. Zimmerman was the most influential eye pathologist in the last 150 years. He was known worldwide and he trained all of the world's leading eye pathologists of the 20th century," said Dr. Morton F. Goldberg, who was director of the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital from 1989 until 2003.

"He was a charismatic and brilliant lecturer, which is a mark of erudition and real brilliance," said Dr. Goldberg. "He was a fine person with impeccable ethics, and he also had inherent leadership traits. He had been a leader in our field for more than 50 years."

Lorenz Eugene Zimmerman, the son of a German immigrant father and an immigrant mother from Switzerland, was born and raised in Washington, graduating in 1938 from Central High School.

"They owned the Regent Pastry Shop in Washington, and he said he went into medicine because he didn't want to have to work as hard as his parents," said a daughter, Dr. Mary Louise "Lou" Collins, a Homeland resident, who is director of pediatric ophthalmology and resident education at Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

Dr. Zimmerman earned his bachelor's degree in 1943 and his medical degree in 1945, both from George Washington University.

He served in the Army from 1944 to 1954, attaining the rank of lieutenant colonel.

He served an internship at the old Gallinger Municipal Hospital in Washington from 1945 to 1946 and completed a general pathology residency at Walter Reed Army Medical Center from 1947 to 1950.

"The start of the Korean War coincided with the end of his residency, and he became the pathologist in charge of a field hospital pathology laboratory where he served in Korea until 1952," said Dr. Collins.

While in Korea, Dr. Zimmerman was commanding officer of the 8217th Mobile Medical Laboratory. His decorations included the Bronze Star and Legion of Merit.

The Korean War was the backdrop for the beginning of a friendship that later blossomed into a marriage. The future Mrs. Zimmerman had enlisted in the Army Nurse Corps in 1945 and served in Japan during the occupation after the end of World War II.

"My parents first met in a mobile Army hospital in Korea," said Dr. Collins. "They did not see each other again for seven or eight years until they were both stationed at Walter Reed. They married in 1959."

In 1952, Dr. Zimmerman began his career at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He remained there for the next 52 years, and chaired the department of ophthalmic pathology from 1954 to 1983. He was chairman emeritus at his death.

"This was the turning point in his career, although he had not had specific training in pathology of the eye and ocular adnexa," said Dr. Collins.

Dr. Zimmerman's role was not treating patients but rather studying eye tissue and cells that may lead to eye disease. He made important contributions to the understanding of the causes of leukocoria, or white pupil, and ocular melanoma.

"He studied a huge volume of tissue samples that came from eye surgeons all over the world. He brought exceptional order out of chaos," said Dr. Goldberg.

Dr. Zimmerman was not only a prolific researcher but also an indefatigable writer of scientific articles. During his career, he wrote more than 370 articles in peer-reviewed journals, "many of which are landmark contributions," said Dr. Collins.

He also lectured widely. "Every talk he gave he was just spectacular," said Dr. C. Pat Wilkinson, chairman of the department of ophthalmology at GBMC. "I knew him from my residency days and he was one of those figures you rarely come across in life."

He was a professor of pathology and ophthalmology at Georgetown University from 1983 to 1986 and was a consultant in pathology from 1976 to 1999 at Washington Hospital Center.

Dr. Zimmerman was also a professor of ophthalmology and pathology at the Johns Hopkins Medical School.

He retired in 2002.

"He was a man of no pretensions. He was known as 'Zim,'" said Dr. Goldberg. "He loved teaching and doing original research and was exceptional at both."

"Zim does leave a lasting legacy," said Dr. Wilkinson. "He had a wonderful personality. He was an elegant, charming and enthusiastic guy that everyone just adored. We will all miss him."

The couple had lived in Kensington for many years before moving to Blakehurst 11 years ago. Dr. Zimmerman liked spending time at a second home at Sherwood Forest.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.