William C. Frayer, Ophthalmology

Dr. William C. Frayer, professor emeritus of ophthalmology in the Scheie Eye Institute, passed away January 17 at age 91.

"Dr. Frayer spent more than 50 years in the department of ophthalmology during a critical time of medical change and ophthalmic discovery," said Dr. Joan O’Brien, chair of the department, in a letter sent to faculty and staff.

After serving in the Army as a captain and then completing his residency, Dr. Frayer joined the faculty in 1952. He left Penn in 1964, but returned in 1972 to help launch the Scheie Eye Institute. He became emeritus professor in 1991.

Dr. Frayer also served as the director of the William C. Frayer Ophthalmic Pathology Laboratory, and on two separate occasions served as interim chair of the department. After his retirement from the department, Dr. Frayer continued to attend grand rounds and faculty meetings, and to consult and advise faculty and residents.

Dr. O'Brien commented that, "Despite the many advances in technology and changes in medical administration, Dr. Frayer never lost sight of the true focus of ophthalmology. 'Our daily contact with patients remains the single most gratifying part of being an ophthalmologist. No matter how elaborate our systems have become, this interaction between doctor and patient remains the most significant part of our lives.' His words, and indeed his life, are an inspiration to ophthalmologists and medical practitioners everywhere."

The author of numerous medical articles, Dr. Frayer wrote a history of ophthalmology at Penn, Ophthalmic Journey, 50 Years at the University of Pennsylvania, published in 2002. He and his son, William J., co-wrote a scientific paper, “Fish Stories and Clinical Tales,” published in 2004 in the Archives of Ophthalmology.

Raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Dr. Frayer earned a bachelor’s degree from Brown University in 1943 and a medical degree from the University of Michigan in 1945.

Dr. Frayer is survived by his wife, Joy; his sons, William, Brackley and Frederick; stepdaughters, Beth McDevitt and Joanne Munsell; two sisters; 11 grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

Donations are being accepted for the Dr. William C. Frayer Memorial Fund c/o Dr. Joan O’Brien, Scheie Eye Institute, 51 N. 39th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104.