UC Irvine to host site dedication for Gavin Herbert Eye Institute

New facility will focus on ‘elevating the level of eye care in Orange County’

October 25, 2010
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The site for The Gavin Herbert Eye Institute’s new clinical and academic center will be dedicated Friday, Oct. 29, at the UC Irvine School of Medicine, near the corner of Health Sciences Road and Bison Avenue.

When completed, the $31 million, 60,000-square-foot facility will cement UC Irvine’s status as a global leader in eye care and ophthalmologic research, boasting state-of-the-art patient exam and waiting areas, an outpatient surgery center, an optical shop, and faculty office and conference space.

Currently based at UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, the eye institute’s renowned basic research team will be housed in nearby Hewitt Hall. The proximity of UC Irvine’s ophthalmologic physicians, researchers, professors and clinicians will facilitate collaboration, improve patient care and hasten sight-saving discoveries.

The Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, part of UC Irvine’s Department of Ophthalmology, is the only academic eye research facility between San Diego and Los Angeles.

“We’re dedicated to meeting the community’s needs and elevating the level of eye care in Orange County to the best anywhere, nationally or internationally,” said Dr. Roger Steinert, professor and chair of ophthalmology and founding director of The Gavin Herbert Eye Institute.

UC Irvine has raised two-thirds of the amount needed to build the clinical and academic center. A multimillion-dollar contribution has been made by Gavin Herbert, institute namesake and founder and former CEO of Irvine-based Allergan Inc.—maker of eye care and other products, including Botox—and his mother, Josephine Gleis. Their generous gift is the largest ever to the Department of Ophthalmology.

A friend of founding UC Irvine Chancellor Daniel G. Aldrich Jr., Herbert helped establish the ophthalmology department and recruit its first professor and chair, the late Dr. Irving H. Leopold. He offered the distinguished ophthalmologist a vice president’s position at Allergan, which Leopold held concurrently with his UC Irvine appointment.

Herbert said he was proud of his long association with UC Irvine and hoped his gift would make a difference. “We’re building something special,” he said of the eye institute. “This is something I’ve talked about for more than 30 years, and there’s certainly a need in Orange County for such a center.”

Other major supporters include The Allergan Foundation, Abbott Medical Optics, Kelly and Jim Mazzo, Bill and Marsha Link, and the Arnold & Mabel Beckman Foundation.

Some of the nation’s top researchers in retinal disease, glaucoma, corneal disease, macular degeneration and refractive surgery work in UC Irvine’s Department of Ophthalmology.

Professors Tibor Juhasz and Dr. Ron Kurtz patented the technique of cutting the cornea with a femtosecond laser instead of a steel blade during LASIK surgery, a modification that has made the eye operation safer and more effective. Steinert and a UC Irvine team invented a groundbreaking laser-based approach to corneal transplant surgery that is more precise and yields better outcomes and faster recoveries than traditional handheld surgical blades.

More recently, ophthalmologist Dr. Henry Klassen has begun investigating the use of stem cells to treat retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration, diseases that cause blindness by destroying light-sensing cells in the retina.

Over the past 10 years, the Department of Ophthalmology has mushroomed from three full-time professors to about 30 full- and part-time faculty members. Many of the new recruits have come to UC Irvine because of its location in the heart of Orange County, which is believed to have more medical device and pharmaceutical eye care companies than anywhere else in the world.

The Gavin Herbert Eye Institute site dedication event will take place from 3 to 5 p.m. Oct. 29.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UC Irvine is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UC Irvine is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with nearly 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,000 staff. Orange County’s second-largest employer, UC Irvine contributes an annual economic impact of $4 billion. For more UC Irvine news, visit news.uci.edu.

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