HEI Founder


Barrett George Haik, MD, FACS
Hamilton Professor of Ophthalmology
Founder & Director of the Hamilton Eye Institute


Barrett George Haik, MD, FACS, Hamilton Professor of Ophthalmology, founder and director of the Hamilton Eye Institute, died Friday, July 22, 2016, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Dr. Haik was born into a family of ophthalmologists in New Orleans in 1951. The son of George M. Haik, MD, and Isabelle Sa-loom Haik, he graduated from Centenary College with a bachelor of science in biology and earned his medical degree and doctorate in anatomy from the Louisiana State University Medical School.

After residency at New York’s Edward S. Harkness Eye Institute at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, Dr. Haik joined the faculty at Cornell University and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In 1986, he moved to Tulane University in New Orleans as a professor of Ophthalmology, and was made program director and medical director of the Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital. In 1991, Dr. Haik was named the George M. Haik, Sr., MD - St. Giles Foundation Professor of Pediatric and Adult Ophthalmic Oncology.

In 1995, Dr. Haik was recruited to be Chair of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center Department of Ophthalmology, where he transformed a small office with four academic faculty members into the world-class Hamilton Eye Institute, home to more than 40 academic faculty members and ranked among the top ten eye clinics in the nation. After 17 years as chairman, Dr. Haik took on the role of director of the Hamilton Eye Institute. A prolific fundraiser, Dr. Haik raised more than $100 million dollars for the Hamilton Eye Institute and its programs.

Dr. Haik’s love of ophthalmology and dedication to healing was evident in his loyal, selfless service to organized medicine. He was past president of the Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology, the American Eye Study Club, and the American Society of Ophthalmic Ultrasound; a fellow of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American College of Surgeons (for which he also served nearly a decade on the Board of Regents), and the New York Academy of Medicine; and a member of the American Ophthalmological Society.

Dr. Haik specialized in ocular oncology, oculoplastics, and orbital disease, and he was internationally renowned as an expert in the diagnosis and management of ophthalmic tumors, receiving numerous grants for his re-search. He served on the National Advisory Eye Council and the National Eye Institute Advisory Council for the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Haik gave hundreds of presentations in both national and international forums. He received a Healthcare Heroes Lifetime Achievement Award from the Memphis Business Journal and a Life Achievement Honor Award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Dr. Haik’s true passion was helping people. He personally saved the sight or lives of thousands of people, and exponentially more through research, international outreach, and his mentorship of young eye surgeons. He cultivated meaningful, lasting friendships and promoted the careers of countless ophthalmologists and medical leaders during his lifetime. Dr. Haik inspired the careers of innumerable medical students, residents, fellows and junior faculty, and gave many leaders in medicine and ophthalmology his loyal mentorship and support.

Associate Professor of Ophthalmology Jorge I. Calzada, MD, is one of the multitude mentored by Dr. Haik. “Through people like me,” he said, “Think about this — thousands and thousands of patients that I’ve seen — he’s impacted an exponential number of people out there ... He will be irreplaceable.” 

Dr. Haik also touched countless lives through his efforts to improve health care in underserved nations throughout the world. He traveled to Panama frequently for medical missions and gave lectures across the globe teaching physicians how to identify and treat pediatric ocular cancers. He made tremendous strides in the fight against retinoblastoma, an eye cancer that in developing nations once took the lives of 90% of children afflicted with it. Through Dr. Haik’s initiatives to establish centers of excellence throughout the developing world, that mortality rate is now under 10% in many countries. 

When not caring for patients or teaching others, Dr. Haik enjoyed the company of his friends and family, fishing at the family’s camp in Venice, Louisiana, and spending time with his bloodhound, Maddie.