The foremost retinal honor society in the world recognized Gregg Kokame, chief of ophthalmology and a clinical professor at the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM), for his excellence in research of macular diseases. Kokame was awarded the J. Donald M. Gass Medal by the Macula Society, named after one of the worldʻs leading specialists on diseases of the retina who described many different macular diseases.
“To me, the J. Donald M. Gass Medal is the most amazing honor, and one that I would have never thought possible. The Gass Medal is like the Heisman Trophy for retina specialists. I am extremely honored and humbled by this incredible award, which means so much to me, as Dr. Gass meant so much to me,” said Kokame. The Heisman Trophy is awarded to the top college football player each year.
Kokame was a fellow of Gass at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, which has been rated the number one ophthalmology program for many years.
“These awards recognize those who have, throughout their careers, consistently produced outstanding work that has moved our field forward,” stated H. Richard McDonald, award committee chairman for the Macula Society. “They do justice to the giants whose names adorn their awards. The nominees for these awards are many, all worthy, and the winners are few.”
Following in the footsteps of his father, who was also a clinical faculty member in the surgery department at JABSOM in its early years, Kokame joined the clinical faculty in ophthalmology in 1989. He attended the UCLA School of Medicine, interned at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and worked with Jeremy Swan and William Ganz (of the Swan-Ganz catheter) in the cardiac care units. He also trained at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA for his residency and at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute for his retina fellowship.
In 1993, Kokame founded the Hawaiʻi Macula and Retina Institute through which he authored more than 100 publications and conducted 70 clinical trials. He serves as founding partner and senior consultant at Retina Consultants of Hawaiʻi. Kokame made international news in 2015 for being the first surgeon to perform the first implantation of the “bionic eye” or the Argus II Bionic Implant in the Asia Pacific region.
This recognition is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.