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Message from the Chair (2022 Recap)

Posted: 2022-12-14

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From the perspective of patient care, 2022 was our busiest year yet, with more than 72,000 patient visits to the eye institute and more than 4,500 surgeries. This growth has been supported by more exceptional clinicians joining our staff. Over the summer, we welcomed neuroophthalmologist Sam Spiegel, MD, as well as pediatric ophthalmologist Stephen Prepas, MD, who also brings his private practice patients to UCI Health. Read more about these fine physicians in this issue of Shine the Light.

In 2023, we plan to hire four more clinicians: a comprehensive ophthalmologist and three specialists in glaucoma, retina/ocular oncology and cornea and cataract surgery. Our patients will soon enjoy greater access to surgery with the recent approval of two operating rooms at the eye institute in Irvine — effectively doubling our surgical capacity.

Our achievements in advancing research this year are remarkable, as well. The Department of Ophthalmology is now ranked 12th in the nation for total funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and we’re poised to ascend even further. We recently received a trifecta of prestigious eye research grants: an NIH T32 training grant, an NIH P30 core grant and an unrestricted grant from the Research to Prevent Blindness, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization supporting eye research. Few U.S. institutions have simultaneously earned all three grant awards and we are honored to be among them. We also are actively recruiting new researchers to join our Center for Translational Vision Research, which will further enhance this world-renowned team’s efforts.

Amid such promising measures of growth, one of the brightest spots is the expansion of our corneal and ocular surface disease program under the leadership of Marjan Farid, MD. Ocular stem cell transplant treatment for these extraordinarily complex cases was pioneered by Edward Holland, MD, at the Cincinnati Eye Institute. UCI Health has been chosen to be only the second ophthalmology program in the world to offer this complex care for patients at serious risk of losing their sight due to severe ocular surface disease. We eagerly look forward to supporting the program’s success. Learn more about this exceptional program in this issue.

We continue to greet new neighbors. The UCI Health Dermatology Center now sees its patients in our Irvine facility. The Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute recently opened next door to us, along with its clinical offices and other schools and programs that are part of the UCI Susan & Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences. We’re delighted to welcome them to the neighborhood.

Finally, I’d like to thank Chad Lefteris, the CEO of UCI Health, for his phenomenal support in helping to fund the build-out of the eye institute’s second floor and additional operating rooms. Michael Stamos, MD, dean of the UCI School of Medicine, also has been an amazing partner whose support has been essential in expanding our team with additional clinicians and researchers. They have both been instrumental in our growth and continuing success.

None of our extraordinary accomplishments this year would have been possible without the generosity of our donors, grateful patients and industry partners. Thank you for your ongoing support, which moves us closer to realizing our goals and achieving our mission to eradicate blindness worldwide.