About Dr. Gardner

The Fresno Kid

Kathryn Gardner was born in Fresno, California as the second of seven children of a Mennonite homemaker, Naomi May Gardner, and a British-born collegian and WWII P-61 night fighter (“Black Widow”) pilot, Thomas F. Gardner. After he graduated from college, her father moved the family to St. Louis, where he matriculated at the Washington University School of Medicine. He was eventually forced to withdraw from his medical studies by severe and protracted Meniere’s disease, probably induced by high-altitude maneuvers during his military service. Changing professional direction after his recovery, he was accepted to the San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo. As a child in Marin, Dr. Gardner welcomed numerous new siblings and surprised the music teacher in the third grade by selecting the French Horn (her mother’s suggestion) as her instrument of choice. She remembers secretly poring over her father’s medical texts and inspecting with great interest the formalin-preserved specimens displayed in the biology laboratory of the high school where her father worked part-time to support the growing family. Eventually the newly ordained Rev. Gardner took a position in Santa Cruz at the First Presbyterian Church, and Dr. Gardner completed middle and high school near Felton in the San Lorenzo Valley, graduating as Valedictorian of her high school class in 1967.

Escaping from Felton

Dr. Gardner attended the University of California at Santa Barbara from 1967-1971, a time of political protest and academic disruption. Her initial plan to major in science was abandoned after the tragic death of her mother from lymphoma near the end of her freshman year, and she changed her academic direction to allow more time for family responsibilities, personal introspection and recovery. During her UCSB years she fenced, studied French and worked as the librarian and assistant to Dr. Preston Cloud, the preeminent Professor of Biogeology who helped supervise the study of the moon rocks. She completed her Bachelor of Arts in English in 1971, and was then accepted into the graduate division of English at UCLA. She completed her Master’s degree in 1973 with a faculty recommendation to complete her doctoral studies at UCLA in the literature of the English Renaissance, specializing in Shakespearean tragedy. She simultaneously qualified, through the UCLA Department of Education, for a Lifetime Community College Credential in Literature and Language Arts, and taught English part-time at several of the Los Angeles community colleges, including LA Valley College, LA City College and LA Harbor College.

The Decade of No Sleep

After completing her Master’s degree, guided by wisdom of her lifetime friend and mentor UCLA Professor Charles Y. Nakamura, Dr. Gardner returned to her longstanding and passionate interest in the sciences with a decision to pursue a career in medicine. Although she now held a faculty appointment in the Department of English at California State University at Northridge, where she was starting a new learning center for disabled college students, she remained a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry at UCLA for the purpose of completing her premedical requirements. In 1975 she was honored and astonished to be accepted as a first-year student in the UCLA School of Medicine. During her first two years of medical school she also worked as a phlebotomist at the VA Hospital, transcribed reports for the Nuclear Medicine Department, and taught incoming medical students in the Prologue to Medicine program. At the end of her second year she was named the Stafford Warren Scholar (after the founding Dean of the UCLA School of Medicine), and graduated Alpha Omega Alpha in 1979.

Delighted to have survived one year as a Resident in Internal Medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Dr. Gardner happily returned to UCLA as a Resident in Ophthalmology at the Jules Stein Eye Institute. Her subsequent three years of eye medical and surgical training took her to Wadsworth VA Hospital and Harbor UCLA Medical Center in addition to the JSEI at UCLA. During this time she had the great privilege of studying under Drs. Bradley Straatsma, Robert Christensen, Robert Hepler, Robert Foos and Thomas Pettit. Dr. Pettit, a beloved teacher, mentor and internationally acclaimed academic clinician in the area of corneal and external ocular disease, invited her to remain at JSEI as the Heed Foundation Fellow in Corneal and External Disease and corneal transplantation. During her fellowship with Dr. Pettit and subsequent faculty appointment at JSEI/UCLA, Dr. Gardner lectured, published review and research papers and presented posters in the areas of ocular melanoma, cataract, Nd:YAG laser surgery, drug-induced ocular side effects (Amiodarone), and dry eye syndrome.

After leaving her full-time faculty position she started her ophthalmology practice in Santa Monica in 1985, and will celebrate her 25th year in private practice in 2010. She has remained on the UCLA faculty as Assistant Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology, teaching residents in ophthalmology at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and medical students at the David Geffen UCLA School of Medicine. She is the recent Past President of the UCLA Department of Ophthalmology Association (2006-2008), and is currently developing a mentorship program for resident physicians. She has served as an Associate Examiner for the American Board of Ophthalmology since 1986.

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Dr. Gardner lives with her husband Mark, an aeronautical and automotive design engineer, and her daughter Alexandria, a UCLA student majoring in Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics. She enjoys keeping up with the activities and accomplishments of her six siblings, two step-daughters, four grandchildren and fourteen nieces and nephews. In addition to her passionate commitment to family, friends and patients, she loves music, Japanese design and horticulture, and everything UCLA! Her non-academic volunteer activities include providing ophthalmology services at the Venice Family Clinic. In profound gratitude to those who mentored and supported her during her own educational journey, Dr. Gardner’s primary philanthropic interests have been in the area of education. She is now a member of the President’s Circle and the Calendar Girls at Santa Monica College, and has an ongoing involvement in the development of several scholarships supporting graduate study at UCLA.

Dr. Gardner’s Professional and Medical Staff Memberships

  • Alpha Omega Alpha, Delta Chapter
  • American Academy of Ophthalmology, Fellow
  • American Board of Ophthalmology, Diplomate
  • American Medical Association
  • Associate Medical Staff Member, St. John’s Health Center
  • Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, David Geffen UCLA School of Medicine
  • California Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons
  • California Medical Association
  • Heed Ophthalmic Foundation, Society of Heed Fellows
  • Los Angeles County Medical Association
  • Professional Staff Association, Consulting Staff, Department of Surgery, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center
  • UCLA Alumni Association, Lifetime Member
  • UCLA Department of Ophthalmology Association, Past President
  • UCLA Friends of English
  • UCLA Medical Alumni Association, Founding Board of Directors
  • Women In Ophthalmology