Dr. Holladay was born in 1946 in Kansas City, Kansas. He entered Southern Methodist University in 1964, and received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering in 1969, and was awarded a scholarship to graduate school. His work in the Master's program was primarily in Computer Science, where he developed software for the onboard aircraft computers to defeat Soviet radar systems. He also designed night vision optical devices using early IBM programs, which represented his first exposure to the field of optics.
In 1971, Dr. Holladay received his Master of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering from Southern Methodist University and started course work toward a Doctorate. Attending classes at Southwestern Medical School was part of the Biomedical Engineering program, and this fostered an interest in the medical applications of his engineering background. As his interest grew, he decided to attend medical school.
Dr. Holladay was accepted in the first on-campus class of 32 members at The University of Texas Medical School in Houston in 1971. In 1974, he received his Doctorate of Medicine, followed by a year of research developing instrumentation for measuring the electrical charge of the eye. He then began his residency in ophthalmology in 1975 at Hermann Hospital, the teaching hospital for The University of Texas Medical School at Houston.
He completed his residency in ophthalmology in 1978 and was invited to join The University of Texas Medical School Faculty. In addition to his teaching responsibilities and private practice, Dr. Holladay has invented the Brightness Acuity Tester, an instrument which is used by ophthalmologists all over the world for testing the effects of glare on patients' vision. He has also developed the Holladay "IOL Consultant", the Holladay 1, 2 & Refractive IOL formulas and "Refractive Surgery Consultant" software programs, which are currently used worldwide by ophthalmologists to help restore their patients' vision following cataract removal and obtaining the best results following refractive surgery (LASIK).
Before his retirement from clinical practice in 2010, Dr. Holladay specialized in refractive surgery, which includes LASIK-laser vision correction and PRK. He is also the primary inventor of twelve patents. He is very active in the American Academy of Ophthalmology; serving as past Chairman of the Committee on Low Vision, Committee on Optics, Refraction and Contact Lenses, Ethics Committee and the Committee for Ophthalmic Technology Development. Because of his service to the Academy and his teaching contributions at the annual meeting, he received the Honor Award in 1985, and the Senior Honor Award in 1995, which is awarded to only 25 ophthalmologists a year. He has written more than 100 scientific articles, 50 book chapters, and authored or edited five books and made several hundred scientific presentations. Dr. Holladay has been invited as a Visiting Professor to many of the major ophthalmology programs internationally. Dr. Holladay is a Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at Baylor College of Medicine.
In 1986, he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for his service on the Ophthalmic Device Panel. He has received the "Most Outstanding Lecturer in Ophthalmology" from his medical students numerous times. In 1991, he was named the A. G. McNeese, Jr. Professor of Ophthalmology and was the second person to be recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus of The University of Texas Medical School at Houston. In 1992, he received the Binkhorst Medal Award from the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery. In 1995, he was honored with the Ridley Medal from the European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery. In 2001, he was the first recipient of the John Pearse Memorial Award from the United Kingdom & Ireland Society of Refractive Surgeons (UKISCRS). In 2002, he received the Richard Lindstrom, MD Medal from the Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists.
He is past Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Board for the International Society of Refractive Surgery of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and has received the Barraquer Medal, Founder’s, Kritzinger and President’s Awards; Editorial Board Member of the Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery-Eurotimes. In 2006, he received the Lifetime Achievement Medal from the International Society of Refractive Surgery, 2007 received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology. In 2009, he received the El-Maghraby International Award from the Middle East African Council of Ophthalmology (MEACO). In 2011, Dr. Holladay received the Jan Worst Medal from the International Intraocular Implant Club and the Benedetto Strampelli Medal from the Society of Ophthalmology in Italy.