Clinical Tribute
by J. Stuart Nelson, M.D.,
Ph.D., Associate Director

Perpetuating the Legacy

When I first arrived at the University of California Irvine, my main goal was to earn a Ph.D. in cell biology and applied laser biology. I had just recieved an M.D. from the University of Southern California, and i was anxious to do research and discover how lasers could be applied in the field of medicine. I was accepted into the Ph.D. program of the Department of Development and Cell Biology under the supervision of Michael Berns. It was 1981, and Michael's office and labs were located on the third floor of the Steinhaus Hall. At that time, Michael was just beginning to interest Arnold Beckman in lasers and their practical possibilities for science. Little did I realize that their eventual collaboration would result in a life-long career for me at UCI and UCIMC.

Because of Dr. Beckman's generous donation, the Beckman Laser Institue and Medical Clinic opened in 1986. Michael was the Director od the Institue. I recieved my Ph.D. in 1987, and I became the Associate Director in April 1987, a position I still hold today. I decided to specialize in laser surgery on skin and focused my research on discovering the most efficacious ways to treat port wine stain birthmarks.

Port wine stain birthmarks can be, at the least, embarrassing and, at the most, disfiguring in adulthood. the best time to treat a port wine stain is when the patient is young. WHile some insurance companies no longer regard port wine stain treatment as purely cosmetic, there are many parents who cannot afford to have their children treated by laser. To give these children an opportunity for treatment here at the Institute, the Children's Treatment Fund was established. Donations from the public and privare companies have enabled many children to be successfully treated for port wine stains and to feel that they are not different from "normal" children. That the Institute can help improve the lives of these children is extremely gratifying and a prime example of how Dr. Beckman's generosity affects so many people.

Today, I am also the Medical Director of the clinic and I continue to do research on port wine stains. We developed dynamic cooling for lasers that has become the worldwide standard for treatment of birthmarks in infants. Dr. Beckman, the perennial scientist and inventor, would be proud that here at the Beckman Laser Institute, we have tried to emulate his legacy of creative thinking to effect a practical solution for a scientific problem.