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.

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Glen Brindley Tributes

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September 3, 1949 – August 1, 2018

Dr. Glen Brindley entered peacefully into the presence of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on August 1, 2018, after months of battling cancer.  He surely heard the words he longed to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Dr. Brindley’s legacy is far-reaching.  His teaching had a huge impact on the residents from Baylor Scott & White Hospital — one former resident said that every week he practices something that Dr. Brindley taught him.  Even more significantly, his love for God and how he spoke into the lives of the residents and those he worked with will leave an indelible mark on them.

Following Residency at the Duke Eye Center in 1979, Dr. Brindley received Fellowship training at The University of California at San Francisco. At the end of his training, returned home to Temple, Texas. On July 1, 1980, Dr. Brindley began a long and distinguished career at Scott & White in the field of Ophthalmology.  His leadership was quickly recognized, and he became the Program Director and then Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology and served in that capacity 17 years.

Dr. Brindley trained scores of outstanding young doctors, some of whom are serving on the foreign mission field. His stated professional goal was to “Honor God by serving his patients.” He was a beloved, compassionate doctor to hundreds of patients, praying with and for them and seeking to restore not only physical, but spiritual sight as well.  Also, he and his wife, Nell, served in some capacity at every church they were a part of.  Leading marriage small group Bible studies in his home, Bible Study Fellowship, and a Young Married Class.

He was a longtime Christian Ophthalmology Society member and received the J. Lawton Smith Award in 2002.  After his death a newly formed mentoring program was named in his honor.

Here are a few tributes from those who knew him….

I first met Glen Brindley when I was a 4th year medical student determined to find the best residency program in the country, or at least the best one that would accept me. I set up the interview at Scott & White in Temple, Texas, not because I thought I would settle for such a small and insignificant program in a town no one ever heard of, but because it would be a nice way to practice for the upcoming interviews that really mattered. Temple is a place people drive through on their way to somewhere else. Who would ever live in such a place on purpose? And then I met Glen.

When he walked in the room and introduced himself, I thought there must be some mistake. “This can’t be the residency program director”, I thought. He looked younger than me and he talked like… well I don’t know where that accent came from, but I could barely understand him, and I’m a native Texan. Our first meeting left a profound impression on me. I could tell he was a good man – honest, straightforward, passionate – but also a man I knew would be dedicated to teaching residents and who would be fun to be around. And for some strange reason he honestly thought Temple, Texas was paradise on earth. He was born and raised there and couldn’t imagine why anyone would live anywhere else.

In the years that followed, Glen Brindley became the most significant mentor of my life other than my own parents, and one of the best friends I’ve ever had. When I was still a first-year resident, he asked me if I would consider joining the faculty after residency, perhaps after a neuro-ophthalmology fellowship. I said yes (after praying about it for at least 15 seconds) knowing in my heart that God had brought me to this place to bring me closer to Himself, and that Glen would be his means to that end. I was only casually interested in neuro-ophthalmology, and still wasn’t thrilled about life in such an insignificant town, but I knew I wanted to spend my career working alongside Glen Brindley. It was my admiration for him that brought me there in the first place, and an even greater love and respect for that man two years later that convinced me to stay.

When Glen first welcomed me into his world, he was a man of faith who diligently attended church with his family every Sunday, who lived an upright and moral life, who loved and cared for his wife, Nell, and his two girls with all his heart, and who knew the right answers to most of life’s challenging questions. But something amazing was happening in his heart that gradually became more and more apparent to everyone who knew him. God was transforming him from a highly respected, well educated, and enormously talented ophthalmologist who happened to be a Christian, into a Christ centered, passionate servant of the living God for whom ophthalmology was simply an opportunity to glorify God through service to others.

As that transformation was just beginning, some of the residents in our program asked Glen if he would be interested in leading us in a Bible study. He confessed he had never done that before but didn’t hesitate to dive in. We met weekly at 6:00 AM so we could finish before the workday started at 7:00. A few years later he started and led a Bible Study Fellowship program in Temple that God used to bless hundreds of men and change their lives forever. Not long after that God moved Glen to begin a Sunday morning Bible class at his church that continued for decades. Every weekday Glen would rise at 4:00 AM to study his Bible for two hours before heading off to work. Then on Sunday mornings he would pour out all that God had taught him for the benefit of the young families who flocked to his class. He was a consummate teacher – enthusiastic, entertaining, precise, logical, and passionate. For Glen it was real; it was not an act. It was never to display his own talent or drive his own agenda. It was to honor and glorify the God who created him, loved him, and redeemed him. More often than not, genuine tears would flow as he would speak of God’s mercy and grace. Glen’s teaching was powerful because it was unmistakably God’s message being delivered through a humble servant whose love for Christ was infectious.

If anyone were to ask Glen why he got out of bed every morning, he would have said, “to glorify God by enjoying Him forever”.

Most of us who have been graciously brought into relationship with our Savior know to answer that question the same way. It’s the right answer. For Glen, it was real. I’ve never seen anyone enjoy Christ like Glen did. As I struggle to describe my friend Glen to those who didn’t have the pleasure of knowing him before the Lord took him home, my memories and impressions of him center on the word ‘joy’. He was profoundly grateful for God’s grace, and that gratitude exploded forth in his life as unrestrained joy. If Glen was in the building, you would know it within minutes because you would hear the laugh, that unmistakable, indescribable, highly contagious laugh. I think that’s what I miss the most about Glen. No one else could ever make me smile the way he could. No matter how stressful the day, no matter how difficult life’s challenges seemed at the time, Glen would help me remember what matters most, and that profound joy is the only rational response to God’s goodness.

Dr. Kyle Smith, MD
Baylor Scott & White
Long time COS Member

Isaiah 26:3  “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.  Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”

During the holidays we often remember those that we love who are no longer with us, and this year I lost one of the most important mentors in my life, Dr. Glen Brindley.  He taught me about Ophthalmology.  He taught me about our Lord.   He modeled for me how a man of God should live and behave in his home and work.  As I was reading in Isaiah today I came across the verse above and it brought to my mind so many things about my mentor. Dr. Brindley’s mind was stayed on the Lord and that flowed into everything that he did.  It even flowed into his way of speaking and because of that, I have a few of his phrases that I’d like to share.

During our Bible study on marriage with the Brindleys, my wife and I were able to learn from the hard-won wisdom the Brindleys had gathered over their long marriage.  After a long day at work or a rough day in the operating room I admit that I am often guilty of carrying that stress home and letting it affect how I treat my family.  Instead of coming home with joy to see my children and wife, I come home tired, slightly grumpy, and not ready to show the love of Christ to those that I love most in this world.  The Brindleys called this spilling over.

Our cups can often become filled by the everyday trials of life, both ordinary and extraordinary, and instead of placing those burdens at the feet of our Savior we carry them all with us until we are so full with them that all we can do is spill over, and that often happens in our homes.  It’s such a simple phrase, but just knowing the reality of this has allowed my wife and I to realize when it is happening and tell each other honey, I’m sorry, I’m spilling over.  It allows us to understand each other better and to try and be better partners in life by carrying one another’s burdens as well.  And when we have a disagreement and are discussing some point of contention between us the Brindleys taught us that we should imagine, as Dr. Brindley said that he did, that our spouse has a note on their forehead saying “I am not the enemy.”   Even in struggles and hard times, the Lord has given us to each other to cherish and this little trick is a good way to remind us of that.

“Remember in the darkness what you learned in the light.”  He would often remind us that in the good times in our lives we need to take extra care not to become complacent in our relationship with God.   Because when the darkness of life creeps in and begins to crowd around us, we will need to remember what we learned in the good times.  If we live our life to reflect our savior, Jesus Christ, then when tribulations come we can more easily remember how good our God is.  I think of Psalms 88 when I think of this phrase.  The psalmist is overwhelmed with troubles and drawing near to death but from the beginning he says “Lord, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you.?”  Although this is a sorrowful psalm, and the author appears to be in deep darkness and God seems silent and far away, he continues to cry out to the Lord.  Perhaps the psalmist remembers a truth that was also a common saying of Dr. Brindley: “God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.”  And in the darkness, the psalmist remembered.  His mind was stayed on the Lord.

One short phrase of Dr. Brindley’s has stuck with me more than any other.  He would often remind me that “it’s hard down here.”  This may seem like a strange phrase for me to remember so dearly, but he always followed it with something else.  “It’s hard down here, but God is good.”  “It’s hard down here, but we serve a risen savior.”  It was such a simple reminder that our struggles and tribulations in this world are real and heavy, but we can place that burden on our Lord.  Dr. Brindley lived his life this way.  As surgeons, sometimes those heavy burdens can be that of difficult or complicated surgeries, and the fact that sometimes you try to help people and end up failing to do so or even causing harm.  Sometimes endophthalmitis results from an uncomplicated trabeculectomy, and people don’t recover.  As most glaucoma specialists are, Dr. Brindley was no stranger to difficult procedures with complicated postoperative courses.  When a friend asked him about how he dealt with this he said that he always did everything he could for a patient, that he trusted the Lord to guide him, and that “some people would be better if they never met [him].”  I very much doubt that last part, but I think his sentiment was that if we do our work in such a way that we are pursuing excellence and serving our patients’ best interests then there is some comfort even when we fail.  And because “it’s hard down here” and we live in a fallen world, those situations will come.  But God is still good, all the time.

ironsharpensAnyone who trained under Dr. Brindley knew that when you were in the OR with him, you were going to get “pimp” questioned.  For those outside of the medical training world, “pimp questioning” is the time honored tradition of asking a series of progressively more difficult questions to a physician-in-training until they can no longer answer.  But Dr. Brindley was different.  He questioned not just about Ophthalmology, but probably even more about life.  Sometimes I hear in my mind Dr. Brindley saying “what have you done to show your bride you love her lately?” or “What is the Lord teaching you right now?”  His mind was truly stayed on our Lord and he wanted to make sure that those under him were keeping their priorities in order as well.  When I recall him asking me those things it reminds me to keep my mind set on things above, just as Dr. Brindley did.  The bible teaches us that “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”  We should all strive to strengthen one another?s faith in this way, just like Dr. Brindley was constantly doing.

I’ll be forever grateful for what Dr. Brindley taught me, and I give all the thanks and praise for his well-lived life to our Savior whom he followed. The Lord God was and is his everlasting rock and I pray that at the end of my life someone feels the same about me as I do about Dr. Brindley.

— Eddie Mengarelli, MD
McDonald Eye Associates
COS Board Member

Dr Brindley was one of my heroes. He is the reason I went into glaucoma. He is one of the most intelligent yet humble and joyful men I have ever known. He was passionate about his faith, his family, and preventing people from going blind. He used to tell me all the time ?glaucoma is a rescue mission and I am blessed to be one of the rescuers.?  His love for patients caused him to continue seeing patients in clinic until only a couple weeks before he died. He would work 4 days and get chemo one day a week until his body finally told him he couldn?t do it any more. I frequently called him about glaucoma cases and already the day after he died I wished I could call him on a case. I will greatly miss his clinical wisdom. 

Perhaps the biggest way he impacted me was he taught a marriage Sunday school class at church. I learned a lot from him on how to love my wife better and he modeled it in his marriage with Nell daily. He was a spiritual and clinical giant and had a perfect balance between work and family while being the chairman of a department.  He was my friend and I will miss him dearly. 

— James Paauw, MD
Piedmont Eye Center
Former COS Board Member 

 

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