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Reaching 100 Dowling Society members and beyond

As the ARVO 2018 Annual Meeting in Honolulu drew to a close, the ARVO Foundation marked a Dowling Society Medallionssignificant milestone: five ARVO members had joined the Dowling Society during the Meeting, pushing the total membership of this prestigious group over the 100-member mark.

Named for John E. Dowling, PhD, FARVO, the Dowling Society was created in 2008 to encourage individual donors to support the ARVO Foundation which had up until then largely been supported by corporate donors. Members of the Dowling Society have given or pledged $10,000 to support the ARVO Foundation’s work; spouses can join for an additional $5,000 commitment.

Gary Abrams, MD, FARVO, who was chair of the ARVO Foundation when the Dowling Society was launched, was looking for someone to name the society after. Dowling, who had just ended his term as the ARVO Foundation’s inaugural chair, was the clear choice. “John is truly one of the most respected members of ARVO and in all of vision science. He has launched the careers of so many people and he is an eloquent spokesperson for science,” he explains. “He’s a bit like a Pied Piper. People just want to follow him.”

Just more than 10 years later, 116 generous donors have now followed Dowling and joined his namesake society. At ARVO 2019 in Vancouver, the ARVO Foundation will welcome 21 new Dowling Society members at a special reception preceding the ARVO Foundation Gala. This is the largest group of new members ever welcomed to the Society.

“People are seeing their friends, mentors and people that they trained with joining the Dowling Society,” Abrams says of the growing momentum.

Dowling, who personally thanks every new member of the society, is thrilled with its growth and how theDowling Society Chairs with Alice McPherson burgeoning support of Dowling Society members is impacting the ARVO Foundation’s mission. “We’re supporting young investigators to come to the ARVO Meeting, to be mentored, to learn new things and to get a sense of the international ophthalmology and research community,” he says. He also notes the ARVO Foundation’s research award program, which is particularly valuable to ARVO members around the world who don’t have access to large government grants. “That we can provide help in that regard is really extraordinary,” he says.

When asked if he’s surprised by the Dowling Society’s success, Dowling says, “You have to be when you find out there are so many people who are willing to support the ARVO Foundation. It’s nice to have one’s name attached to something like this.”

To learn more about joining the Dowling Society, visit