This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Integrated view of eye care

Oishei grant to support collaborative Ross Eye Institute

Published: November 18, 2004

Contributing Editor

In support of improved eye care in Western New York, the John R. Oishei Foundation has stepped forward with a $1.2 million gift to the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, helping it move closer to a challenge grant issued for the Ira G. Ross Eye Institute.

The institute is named in honor of the late husband of Elizabeth Pierce Olmsted Ross, a 1939 graduate of the UB medical school. Planned as a center for teaching and research, clinical care and community service, it will consist of a free-standing complex at 1176 Main St., next to the Elizabeth Pierce Olmsted, M.D., Center for the Visually Impaired, and research facilities on the UB South Campus.

UB's Department of Ophthalmology has designed the institute as a collaborative enterprise with the Olmsted Center. Last November, Olmsted Ross issued a $3 million challenge grant to the institute.

Thomas E. Baker, president of the Oishei Foundation, said it was impressed with the collaborative spirit of the project's organizers.

"The element that was of greatest interest, beyond the obvious skills of the researchers, was the unique partnership between the university and a community-based organization," said Baker. "It's a much better way to build a true center of excellence engaged in research, clinical care and community education. It also brings an exciting and new element to the medical campus."

President John B. Simpson noted that "one of UB's defining strengths—indeed, the cornerstone of our academic enterprise—is that we view our education, research and public service missions as fundamentally interrelated. Through a highly effective balance of research, teaching, health care and community outreach, the Ross Eye Institute perfectly exemplifies this comprehensive vision of our role as a leading public research university."

Simpson added that "this integrated approach also is reflected in the strong university-community partnerships that have been—and will continue to be—so essential to the institute's advancement. The Oishei Foundation has been a strong and steadfast supporter of our mission to translate innovative research and education into tangible, substantial impact on the communities we serve. We are deeply grateful for that commitment, and for the Oishei Foundation's leadership in support of this vital initiative."

The $1.2 million response from the Oishei Foundation opens wider a door through which UB has begun to bring expert physician scientists to join the Ross Eye Institute staff.

Two faculty members already on board are ocular pathologist Federico Gonzalez-Fernandez and John Sullivan, who specializes in retinal physiology and disease.

James D. Reynolds, professor and chair in the Department of Ophthalmology, said the institute's goal is to hire three more physician scientists—one each year from 2005 through 2007—whom he described as "academicians that will be true 'triple threats,' innovative in research, committed to education and dedicated to clinical care."

Commenting on the "nationally unique collaboration" involving the UB Department of Ophthalmology and the Olmsted Center, Reynolds said: "Those involved are creative, open-minded people who come together to see what we can accomplish, how we can do business in new ways. What's so central to this initiative is that the mission makes sense to everyone. I'm promoting the same mission we were taught in medical school: research, education and service."

Margaret W. Paroski, interim vice president for health affairs and interim dean of the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, noted that beyond raising the level of research in ophthalmology and providing a state-of-the-art teaching facility for residents and medical students, the Ross Eye Institute provides a boost to the surrounding community.

"This kind of synergy between research, education and patient care is what we are trying to build at the university and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus," Paroski said. "Dr. Olmsted Ross issued a challenge grant because she wanted commitment from the community to a shared vision. The Oishei Foundation's generous support demonstrates that commitment."

The institute's site on Main Street, within the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, will be the primary teaching facility for the residency program in the Department of Ophthalmology, as well as for the school's medical students. Together with the Olmsted Center, the Main Street space will provide clinical care to area residents, as well as community education to patients, practicing physicians and other health-care professionals.

Faculty in the ophthalmology department also will conduct research in UB medical school facilities on the South Campus and in research laboratories at the VA Medical Center.