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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Two major losses to the UA community

Two UA professors with international contributions to the field of medicine died in the last week.

Velma Dobson, a professor of ophthalmology, vision science and psychology, died on Friday from complications of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). She came to the UA in 1994 and was internationally known for her research in the development of human vision. Her work, which was a partnership between the Tohono O’odham Nation and the UA, researched astigmatism in young children.

Joseph Miller, professor and head of the ophthalmology and vision sciences department, was one of her research partners.

“”I think if I had to characterize Velma Dobson, I would say that she was a mentor in so many ways to so many people,”” Miller said. “”She was my mentor, I met her as a brand new faculty member, and, because of her teaching, I became a full professor and ultimately department head.””

Her work at the UA College of Medicine expanded her research into space, patenting the “”Dobson Line,”” which persists to this day, establishing benchmarks for space allocation to research faculty on the basis of their grant funding.

An active outdoors enthusiast, she hiked Sabino Canyon almost every day before becoming wheelchair-bound two years ago.

Using a ventilator, Dobson was still an active scientist and teacher until her death.

“”ALS affects the body but not the mind,”” Miller said. “”It’s not just college kids with Facebook that stay connected. Dr. Dobson used the Internet to stay connected to the world and with us.””

Dobson is survived by her husband, Patrick Burke, a former UA professor, her son, Andrew Burke, a UA alumnus and her daughter, Meg Burke, a Ph.D. candidate at Arizona State University.

Memorial services will be held at the East Lawn Palms Cemetery, 5801 E. Grant Rd. on Thursday at 1 p.m.

Michael Cusanovich, 68, professor and director of the Arizona Research Laboratories, died Monday from a heart attack.

He spent his entire career in academia at the UA, starting as an assistant chemistry professor in 1969. Later, he moved to the biochemistry department in 1978 and became a Regents professor in 2005, the highest honor a researcher at the school can attain. His retirement in 2007 marked 38 years of teaching at the UA.

“”He gave back to the university in many ways,”” said Vicki Wysocki, professor and co-chair of the UA biochemistry and molecular biophysics. “”He was a true teacher. He loved working with students, and I loved that he just said what he thought.””

During his tenure, Cusanovich worked to bring high-tech industries to both the biology and optical sciences departments, helping to found and later head the Bioindustry Organization of Southern Arizona. He also served on the board of directors of the Arizona Bioindustry Association.

He taught dozens of classes and was published in over 300 publications over his time with the UA.

“”It’s rare to find a faculty member who loves doing research and does it well, loves working with students and enjoys being a member of the faculty,”” Wysocki said of Cusanovich.

Cusanovich is survived by his wife Marilyn Halonen, a UA pharmacology professor and a member of the Arizona Respiratory Center.

Services have not yet been announced.

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