UB Receives $3 Million Challenge Grant to Establish World-Class Institute for Vision Research and Care

By Lois Baker

Release Date: November 10, 2003 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo has received a $3 million challenge grant from Elizabeth Pierce Olmsted, M.D., a 1939 graduate of its School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, to establish a center of excellence devoted to vision research, education and clinical care.

The center, to be called the Ira G. Ross Eye Institute in honor of Olmsted's late husband, will consist of two sites: a free-standing complex at 1176 Main St. next to the Elizabeth Pierce Olmsted, M.D., Center for the Visually Impaired, within the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC), and research facilities on the UB South (Main Street) Campus.

Plans for the institute will be unveiled Nov. 13 at 1176 Main St. at the kick off of a campaign to raise a total of $8 million. Renovation of the building is expected to begin in 2005, with the grand opening of the institute anticipated in 2006.

Margaret Paroski, M.D., interim UB vice president for health affairs and interim dean of medical school, lauded Olmsted for her generosity and foresight.

"Dr. Olmsted was a pioneer for women in the medical school, and now she is a pioneer for women in philanthropy," said Paroski. "A challenge grant is innovative and creates synergy between the medical school and the community. To commit $3 million shows how much she cares about the people of Western New York. Now we, the university and the people of Western New York, must raise funds to match.

"The risk factors for vision problems are very high in Western New York," she added. "Dr. Olmsted's generosity gives Buffalo the opportunity to have a vision institute performing world-class clinical care and research."

Olmsted, a UB clinical associate professor of ophthalmology, said of the project and her challenge: "I feel very strongly that this is important for the City of Buffalo and the university. The Department of Ophthalmology has a strong clinical component, but we need to boost the teaching and research components. If you have a strong research group, you get publications, your people are asked to speak and you gain the recognition of the national ophthalmology community.

"With more research recognition, you can recruit better faculty, who attract better students, who themselves get introduced to research from enthusiastic investigators," she noted. "All that adds another rung to the university's ladder of excellence."

With the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus taking shape, this is an opportune time to set up the institute, Olmsted added. Paroski said she is pleased with the location, both for it's inclusion in the nucleus of the BNMC and because it allows the university to serve a diverse population.

Plans call for UB's Department of Ophthalmology to establish its offices at 1176 Main St., where faculty will conduct applied vision research, educate residents and medical students, and provide patient care in cooperation with the Olmsted center. The site also will provide community education to patients, practicing physicians and other health professionals.

Faculty will conduct basic laboratory research and graduate and post-doctoral education on UB's South Campus, with the intention of promoting knowledge of the genetics, physiology and pathophysiology of vision and competing effectively for research funding.

James Reynolds, M.D., professor and chair of UB's Department of Ophthalmology, will head the institute. "Many people have worked long and hard to bring this about," said Reynolds. "We mean to fulfill the classic mission of a medical school department -- research, education and clinical care -- in a nationally unique way. We think this is one of the first true collaborations between a medical-school department and a social-service agency.

"Our aim is to care for vision from pre-term until the end of life," said Reynolds, chief of pediatric ophthalmology at UB and a specialist in vision loss in premature infants.

"We will take a very holistic approach, covering the entire spectrum of vision concerns, from prevention and treatment to management of impaired eyesight and rehabilitation of those who lose vision back into society. The interdisciplinary mix of professionals in these fields will provide an unmatched richness to the experience for everyone involved."