OPHTHALMIC ASSOCIATES began as the solo practice of Lycurgus M. Gurley, Sr., MD in 1905, when he moved from Cumberland, MD to Johnstown, PA after receiving his ophthalmology training at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia.
He was the Chief of Ophthalmology at Memorial Hospital from 1915 through 1940. (This post has been held continuously until the present day by one of the partners at OPHTHALMIC ASSOCIATES.) He was an inventor and served in the Army Medical Corps during WWI.
He retired in 1956 from practice with his son Lycurgus M. Gurley, Jr. Dr. Gurley Sr. died in 1961.
Lycurgus M. Gurley, Jr., MD began his practice in 1939 and took over the practice from his father in 1956. He died an accidental death in 1976 and is buried with his father, mother, and wife at Grandview Cemetery. He, too, was a Wills Eye Hospital graduate.
He took on a new partner with Michael J. Sivulich, MD in 1956. Dr. Sivulich had just finished his
residency at Case Western Reserve Academy in OH. He had served as a general practitioner in Nanty Glo and as an Air Force Captain in WWII from 1947-1949. Dr. Sivulich retired in 1987.
Dr. Sivulich formed the “S” in the renown “MASH” group that expanded out of the Gurley’s practice. From the 1950s through the 1970s, these surgeons joined this growing group of ophthalmologists serving the Johnstown region.
Charles L. Hunsberger, MD joined the “MASH” group after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania’s ophthalmology residency program in 1962. He was the group’s first partner to receive an additional sub-specialization training when he completed the Wills Eye Hospital’s retinal fellowship in 1964. He retired from full-time practice in 1992.
The practice provided a wide range of surgical services. Cataract surgery was generally reserved until the lens was “ripe”–to use an antiquated term. This procedure–often a two surgeon intervention–required hospitalization because sutures were not available of a size small enough to place in the eye. Therefore, stabilization of the head was necessary. Also, there was lengthly rehabilitation, and the prescription of thick glasses afterwards. Eye muscle surgery and a form of glaucoma surgery was performed as well.
Camille J. Maravalli, MD returned to Johnstown to practice ophthalmology in the late 1960s. (He grew up in Dunlo, PA.) He served time as a Flight Surgeon in 1961. He finished his ophthalmology residency at the University of Pittsburgh in 1969 and began practice thereafter.
Changes were happening at this time in the business of medicine. Operating a practice was becoming more complicated. Insurance and legal liabilities added layers of complication to previous generation’s method of practice. During Dr. Maravalli’s leadership, therefore, OPHTHALMIC ASSOCIATES was created as a professional corporation, one of the first in Pennsylvania.
The final surgeon joining the group during the “MASH” group era was George S. “Jeff” Ashman, MD, FACS. He came back to Johnstown in 1972 from the University of Pittsburgh where he had finished his ophthalmology residency. Dr. Ashman served our nation through the Public Health Service on Native Indian reservations for two years. Dr. Ashman hailed from a family that long served in the medical community. Wilbur M. Ashman, his father, also served as adminstrator of Memorial Hospital from 1949-1972.
The early 1970s saw Dr. Ashman introducing the use of intraocular implants to the Johnstown area and advancing the extra-capsular cataract method of cataract
surgery. Patient were now recovering outside the hospital with small sutures in place. Also, Dr. Ashman’s use of intraocular lens implants allowed patient’s post-operative glasses to be much thinner. This resulted in high quality vision and comfort.
Dr. Ashman served as the Chief of Ophthalmology for more than 30 years following Dr. Sivulich’s retirement.
Samuel L. Glass, MD came from the University of Pittsburgh to Johnstown in 1984 following completion of a glaucoma fellowship.
Ophthalmology was experiencing progress in the treatment of glaucoma in relation to new topical therapy and, especially, with laser (ALT) intervention. Dr. Glass brought this technology, first, to our area.
Things were changing also with the location(s) of OPHTHALMIC ASSOCIATES. The group had several locations throughout the downtown Johnstown area during the preceding 60 years. The present-day location at 120 Main St. had become the hub of operations since the 1980s. Dr. Glass began the new concept of expansion of the operations of OPHTHALMIC ASSOCIATES to satellite offices.
The first office in this expansion was Windber, PA. Eventually, multiple offices and hospitals throughout Cambria, Somerset, and Bedford Counties. At this time, surgical ophthalmic services were extended to Miners’ and Windber Hospitals.
Additionally, Dr. Glass advocated for integrating optometrists into the care provided by OPHTHALMIC ASSOCIATES. The first optometrist was hired at this time, and OA went on to hire three additional optometrists.
Joseph R. Polito, MD joined OPHTHALMIC ASSOCIATES in 1988 following his internship at Conemaugh Valley Memorial Hospital and residency at Hahnemann University in Philadelphia. He was the third member of the OPHTHALMIC ASSOCIATES to complete a fellowship.
A sea change occurred around this time in cataract surgery. Dr. Polito advanced the phacoemulsification method of cataract surgery to primary from its secondary role in ophthalmic surgery. Some background information:
- Most cataract surgery had been performed using a technique called extra-capsular cataract surgery. During this procedure, the cataract is manually removed from the eye using larger instruments and incisions.
- Phacoemulsification changed the surgical technique to smaller incisions with ultrasonic instruments. This allowed patients to use fewer eye drops for a
shorter period of time, heal faster, and see better quicker.
Dr. Polito also received sub-specialization training in corneal surgery. Dr. Polito introduced an early kind of refractive surgery called RK surgery to the Johnstown area.
In 2002, John J. Brozetti, MD came to Johnstown where his wife, Colleen, had grown-up and attended high school. Dr. Brozetti served in the US Army at many locations throughout the USA and completed both internal medicine (1988-1990) and ophthalmology (1992-1995) residencies.
Shortly thereafter, Joel A. Bezek, MD returned to Johnstown in 2004 and joined OPHTHALMIC ASSOCIATES. A Westmont Hilltop graduate, Dr. Bezek has worked to advance technology in OA’s electronic health records, website, and methods of patient education.
Dr. Brozetti built upon the work that had been done previously in satellite offices in Somerset and Barnesboro and advanced the concept of building an independent surgical center for ophthalmic surgery.
Cataract surgery, as has been described earlier, had undergone a revolution in technique, a marked shortening in healing time, and a dramatic decrease in complication rates. And, with the aging of our population, the volume of cataract surgery increased.
The trend in Pennsylvania and in the nation was and is to move cataract surgery from the hospital to independent surgical center specializing in ophthalmic surgery. This process began to take shape at OPHTHALMIC ASSOCIATES in the 2000s and ended with the completion of OPHTHALMIC ASSOCIATES SURGERY AND LASER CENTER in Richland Township in 2008. This was first and is the only ophthalmic ambulatory surgical center in the Johnstown area.
And the work goes on…