VICKSBURG FACTS: Dr. Alston Callahan’s contribution to eye care

Published 8:00 am Friday, May 26, 2023

Did you know that Vicksburg is the home of eye care specialist Dr. Alston Callahan?

Callahan was born in Vicksburg in 1911. He graduated from high school at the age of 15 and attended Mississippi College to obtain his bachelor’s degree. At the age of 22, Callahan graduated from Tulane University Medical School and then went on to intern at Charity Hospital, New Orleans, La. Callahan then completed his ophthalmology residency at Tulane Graduate School of Medicine according to the New Orleans Academy of Ophthalmology website. 

Callahan served during World War II and was pushed into reconstructive eye surgery for injured soldiers. During the war, he was Chief of the Eye Section of the U.S. Army Northington General Hospital in Tuscaloosa, Ala. After he was discharged, Callahan became the first chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Medical School. 

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He also created the Eye Foundation Hospital in Birmingham in 1963. According to the International Retinal Research Foundation website, the Eye Foundation Hospital was the first facility in Alabama that was dedicated to eye care and treatment. 

Callahan wanted eye care to be attainable for everyone, so he would find ways to raise funds to help with the cost of treatment. He started a partnership with Alabama’s Lion Club and would fundraise $40 million for the State of Alabama and surrounding areas according to the International Retinal Research Foundation website.

He also contributed to medical society with his knowledge of his sub-specialty of ophthalmic plastic and reconstructive surgery. He wrote five textbooks, contributed chapters to 17 additional books, published over 175 scientific articles and lectured nationally and internationally according to the New Orleans Academy of Ophthalmology website. He would also give surgical instructions to students to help further their education.

In 1997, the University of Alabama at Birmingham renamed the Eye Foundation Hospital to The Callahan Eye Foundation Hospital after they purchased the hospital. Callahan then went on to start the International Retinal Research Foundation with Charles D. Kelman, MD. The foundation is committed to funding specific research on the diseases of the eye and also focuses on discovering the causes, preventions and cures of macular degeneration according to the International Retinal Research Foundation website. 

Some of his other accomplishments included him getting inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor in 1996. Then in 2000, Callahan was elected to the “Gallery of Distinguished Citizens” of Birmingham by the Mayor and City Council of Birmingham. In 2004, an Employee Education and Development Fund by the Board of Directors of the Eye Foundation, Inc. was put under Callahan’s name according to his obituary.

Callahan died on Oct. 28, 2005.