Dr. Carl Asseff: A life of service

by Dan Holland

For longtime Independence resident Dr. Carl Asseff, it’s all about serving others whether it be locally, statewide, nationally or overseas in one of his many roles as an ophthalmologist, college instructor, military officer, councilman, consultant, director and myriad of other duties.

Asseff, who previously operated Advanced Eye Care Centers of Cleveland in Independence, retired in 2016. As an ophthalmologist, he specialized in treating glaucoma and performing ocular microsurgery and lens implantation, beginning his career in 1972. He longs for the “old days” of medical practice.

“I consider myself the Norman Rockwell of medicine, like a picture of Norman Rockwell sitting on the edge of a bed with a kid and his black bag sitting on the edge of the bed; that was medicine,” he said. “Medicine was very poor technology-wise in the early days. Now, the technology is phenomenal, but the medical field has changed, and it’s become a business based on generating income.”

In recent times, Asseff established professorships in his name at both The Ohio State University (his alma mater) and Case Western Reserve University, where he is professor emeritus.

“When I had the opportunity, I established these chairs – one at Ohio State in Humanities of Medicine and one at Case Western,” he explained. “Hopefully they can work together and get something into the new medical students coming in. They have an uphill battle because they’re battling a base now that is profit-oriented.”

Erin Gentry Lamb, Ph.D., was designated the holder of the Carl F. Asseff, MD, MBA, JD Professorship in Medical Humanities at CWRU during a ceremony on Aug. 8.

“Dr. Asseff’s funding of this chair in medical humanities is a testimony to both his passion for patient care and his vision,” said Lamb. “He sees the relationship between providers and patients as the most central element of healthcare, and the burnout that so many healthcare providers are facing as a challenge to these relationships as well as to healthcare more broadly. I believe the field of medical humanities is uniquely suited to address these very human sides of medicine.”

Erin V. Moore was named assistant professor and holder of the Dr. Carl F. Asseff Professorship in Anthropology and History of Medicine at The Ohio State University in August 2020.

Asseff received his undergraduate and MD degrees from The Ohio State University and later went on to earn a Juris Doctor from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law and an MBA from Cleveland State University.

“I saw medicine changing, and I realized that I needed more education than I had,” Asseff recalled. “I was very well-educated on the medicine end of it, but outside of that, I felt like a sitting duck. So, I got a law degree and passed the bar exam. Once I finished that, I decided I needed more business background, and that’s when I got my MBA.”

In 1966, Asseff joined the Ohio National Guard, serving as a captain for ten years. He later joined the U.S. Navy.

“After I finished up in the U.S. Army reserve and was discharged from the service in 1976, I got a law degree and MBA,” he explained. “I had all of this knowledge and experience, and I wasn’t going to go practice law, so I volunteered to go back into the service in the Navy. I left my army service as an O-3 captain, and I entered the navy as an O-5 commander due to my background and degrees.”

His final naval duties included serving with the Sixth Fleet in Europe. He retired after serving a total of 29 years, 6 months in military service. He earned three Meritorious Service Medals and three Commendation Medals during his time in the Navy.

Asseff, who served as a councilman-at-large in Independence for five terms from 2010-2020, has five adult children and four grandchildren.

“What I enjoyed most were the patients; the personal relationships with the people,” said Asseff as he reflected on his career. “It’s not a mechanical thing – you’re dealing with human beings who are transferring their full faith and credit into you to turn something around that has been bothering or threatening them.” ∞

Photo: Asseff mounts a motorcycle on the island of Sardinia, Italy near end of his military career, around 2008. Photo submitted.

Photo (main / above): Dr. Carl Asseff. Photo submitted.