Beyond the buildings bearing his name, John Abrams keeps Indianapolis’ most famous athletes seeing 20/20
After graduating with highest distinction from Indiana University in 1980, he graduated from the Indiana University School of Medicine in 1984 with highest distinction and published several articles in the American Journal of Ophthalmology. He is a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Indiana Academy of Ophthalmology and Indiana State Medical Association. He currently is Co-Chairman of IU Ophthalmology, the Director of IU Methodist Hospital’s Ophthalmology Program and Board Certified in Ophthalmology.
Dr. Abrams has been recognized by The Best Doctors in America as one of the best physicians in the country for ophthalmic surgery. He has been voted by physician peers in Indianapolis Monthly’s “Top Doc” in general ophthalmology and cataract surgery every ranking year since 1998. He has authored many articles on ophthalmology topics and presented at numerous professional meetings throughout the country. Dr. Abrams was the recipient of the “40 Under 40” award by the Indianapolis Business Journal for outstanding accomplishments in his profession at a young age.
Dr. Abrams has donated his professional services to Prevent Blindness of Indiana, Project Health, the American Academy of Ophthalmology and various services organizations to provide eye care for those less fortunate. He has provided treatment and performed surgery on immigrants and visiting patients from Russia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, South America and the Caribbean. Dr. Abrams enjoys community volunteerism while serving on many charitable Boards of Directors for over 30 years. That seed for service was planted by the influence of his parents.
“Early on, I saw my mother work in the community,” Abrams said. “I saw my father volunteer in different areas. It’s something we grew up with called Tikkun Olam, which is Hebrew for ‘repair the world.’ It is our obligation and job to make the world a better place.”
Dr. Abrams has a special interest in sports ophthalmology. He is the team Ophthalmologist for the Indiana Pacers (remember Reggie Miller’s fractured eye orbit in 1996?), Indiana Fever, University of Indianapolis and Butler University (think, Brad Stevens leaving a Senior Day game in 2011). He is also Tournament Ophthalmologist for the NCAA and Big Ten Championships when held in Indianapolis. Dr. Abrams assists the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and provides consultation to many IndyCar racing teams.
“I’ve never publicized or bought ads saying I am the team doctor for these guys,” he says. “That’s not why I do it. I do it because I love the sports and I love the teams. When I was a ball boy for the Pacers during the ABA days, there is no better job than that.”
Abrams still gets to hang around the professional athletes he idolized as kid. Now, thanks to a successful medical career, he collects many of the pieces of nostalgia as well. His collection, let’s just say, is as unique and vast as they come. He even started a foundation to help former ABA players. He admits his philanthropy may have been taken to the extreme across a number of levels. That includes North Central.
Abrams and several classmates from 1976 have supported a club at North Central called Panther Pen, and high school “Shark Tank” concept that will reward budding entrepreneurs who show that spirit to launch a business. Still in its infancy, Abrams sees the potential to support the next great Panther.
“I was in the 7th grade leather craft club at Westlane and took it to the extreme and I started a leather business,” Abrams recalls, detailing the custom and wholesale leather work for clients and art shows. “I didn’t have any help with the business aspect of it.”
Cue Panther Pen. The memory of that youthful business experience has prompted Abrams to give back to North Central and reengage with the student community. It’s a way of paying things forward and maybe give students a future they otherwise wouldn’t think was possible.
“You have got to get as much education as you can,” he advises students today. “I learned a long time ago from a Holocaust survivor that the one thing no one can take from you is what’s in your brain. It’s your knowledge. They can take everything else, your possessions, or even your life, but they can’t take what’s in your head. That’s the most valuable commodity you can have.”