Dr. Colenbrander was born in the Netherlands, where he received his medical and ophthalmological training. In 1971 he moved to San Francisco, where he became the Medical Director of the California Pacific Low Vision Services. He was a founding Board member of the International Society for Low Vision Research and Rehabilitation (ISLRR) and represented the sub-specialty of Vision Rehabilitation on the Advisory Committee of the International Council of Ophthalmology (ICO) from 2002 until 2012.
He has always promoted a multi-disciplinary, team approach to vision rehabilitation, since no single individual can adequately serve all needs in this broad field.
In addition to his interest in vision rehabilitation, he also has a long-standing interest in medical terminology. He worked with the International Council of Ophthalmology and the WHO on the preparation of ICD-9, ICD-9-CM and currently ICD-11.
At the intersection of these two interests, he is particularly interested in understanding and properly defining the relationship of vision rehabilitation to traditional “eye” care. Traditional eye care focuses on the anatomical structures of the eye and on How the EYEs function. Vision rehabilitation focuses on How the PERSON functions in society, and therefore involves much more than the eyes alone. If the resulting two points of view are not clearly acknowledged, comprehensive care suffers. The motto of the American Academy of Ophthalmology expresses the need to attend to both aspects: “Preserving sight. Empowering lives.”