J Lawton Smith Award Recipient

J Lawton Smith was one of the original founders of the COS.  He was globally well known as a neuroophthalmologist who was charismatic in practice and his faith!

The J Lawton Smith Award is given out each year at the COS Annual Meeting to an ophthalmologist who has shown a lifetime commmitment to serving the Lord through their personal practice of excellence in medicine, academic influence, and/or missionary dedication.

Everyone has a right to see!




Award Year:

“Dr. Juan Batlle, without knowing it, was being used by God to bringing me to His path to do His work.”

written by Dr. Carlos Gomez

It’s almost impossible to summarize 36 years in a few paragraphs on a piece of paper … even more impossible to explain how I feel about Juan Batlle, but here’s a shot at this and I hope you get a feeling for knowing him.

On a hot afternoon in mid-July, on the rooftop of a catholic retreat center in Cabral, near Barahona (southern city of the Dominican Republic), one day before starting an eye project, Dr. Juan Batlle and I sat down to talk.  The purpose was for him to outline to me the plans to develop an ophthalmology residency program, to which I had been accepted a couple a months before.  After a couple of hours of explanation and an expansive vision of this man’s brainstorming, I had just one question, “How was I supposed to dress in this new program in which I was the first and only resident?”  With a simple smile he then looked at me and said, “Of course, you’ll wear a white coat and tie, at all times, no other way!”


For a city boy who was always wearing t shirts and jeans… this was LIFE CHANGING!!!

And so, after the project Juan sat down with me every single day from Monday to Friday, teaching me the principles of ophthalmology. And Saturdays or even Sundays I got to be invited to his house for more teaching.  So was the commitment of this man to “convert me” from being a simple doctor to an ophthalmologist; something that had been my dream long before I started medical school, but a dream I could not fulfill in my country since the programs we had available were underdeveloped.


I cannot recount all the times Juan spent in the OR teaching me eye surgery, or the millions of questions I asked.  He always had an answer for any question.   He seemed to know it all!!!  At some early point of my training, I remember saying to myself, “you get stuck to this man Carlos no matter what, he’s bound to change your life,” and so I did to this day.

So early I realized nothing bad could happen from this relationship, like a father and son. But this grew up even stronger, I had found a “Mentor”, but most importantly… “A FRIEND “, one that I had not too many of.  Dr. Juan Batlle, without knowing it, was being used by God to bringing me to His path to do His work. I was already a Christian, but with no vision of what to do next on serving my Lord.  Dr. Batlle brought that visión to my life, “to restore the vision of many” no matter their economic status.  “Everyone has the right to see” was one of the last things he said to me on that rooftop years ago.

For 36 years I have and keep listening to the man, the father figure, the mentor, the friend…

Many then followed and the residency grew up to have international extensions, almost around the globe.  Through his years of teaching to so many residents, Dr. Batlle has impacted thousands and thousands who have recovered their vision.  I myself have been a huge part of it, participating on surgical missions from Latin America to the far Middle East to countries I didn’t even know existed.  This is all just because Dr. Batlle made a decision on to what he wanted to do in this life.

Told you… it is almost impossible to put on paper, the feelings are not here included.  Pictures they say, speak more than a thousand words.  With him, no pictures or words could nearly describe it.

May God repay in full Dr. Juan Batlle for he all the good he’s done on this earth.  Especially with me, forever I owe you!!!

Your first born in ophthalmology…

“Juan teaches his “girls and boys” to love the poor lavishly by giving them the care normally reserved for the rich.”

written by William T Hunter

It was the year 1978 and I walked into our portable surgical suite housed in a 50’ trailer to translate and assist. As I opened the door to the OR I could hear prayer rising from Dr. J. Lawton Smith stretched prone on the floor beseeching God for the well being of his somewhat astonished lady patient.

My second encounter with the good doctor was by phone. Dr. Juan Batlle was at our house in Santo Domingo. I asked if he could help me get Dr. Smith to agree to speak at a dinner reception at the
American Academy of Ophthalmology. Juan dialed and greeted the answerer, “Hello, Pop”.  As you might expect I had my speaker for the dinner.

Those who have known J. Lawton recognize that his “flat out” praying for a patient was a common thing; for most it is astounding! Another product of his spiritual fatherhood was Juan’s familial

Dr. Juan F. Batlle, a Dominican and an ophthalmologist of multiple fellowships, was the “son” of many eye doctors who trained him at Bascom Palmer. But he is a son of God directly from the hand and
heart of Dr. J. Lawton Smith. But even more than a son, a disciple of Jesus teaching residents and fellows “to obey everything I (Jesus) has commanded you” Matt. 28:20

Juan teaches his “girls and boys” to love the poor lavishly by giving them the care normally reserved for the rich. Most do this by giving 20% of their time (one day per week) to attend to their “un-private” patients and to teaching residents to walk their talk as well. This behavior, now being replicated around the world, does not make Juan or Dr. Smith “exceptional”, but exemplary – two real human examples of what it means to follow Jesus. Dr. Batlle’s example demonstrates being a world class follower of our Lord entailing equally high expectations for the practice of ophthalmology and serving the poor.

– written by Willie Hunter ~ 2009

JLS Award Recipients

Other amazing ophthalmologists to know . . .