A special “topping-out” celebration was held Tuesday, July 24, at the site of UC Irvine’s Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, acknowledging both the completion of the frame for Orange County’s only academic eye institute and those who are driving the effort.

The 70,000-square-foot facility is being funded entirely through local private philanthropy. To date, UC Irvine Health has raised 75 percent of the $37 million goal for the “Shine the Light” capital campaign and is on schedule to open the institute next summer.

The initial naming gift came from Gavin Herbert, chairman emeritus of Allergan Inc., and his mother, Josephine Gleis, in 2007. “We’re building something special,” he said at the time. “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.”

A generous $500,000 donation from philanthropists Kelly and James Mazzo set an upbeat tone at Tuesday’s topping-out ceremony.

“The university is fortunate to have friends like Jim and Kelly Mazzo, who share our vision for Orange County’s only academic eye center as a place where collaborations with local eye companies lead to groundbreaking treatments and outstanding eye care for the community and the world beyond,” said UCI Chancellor Michael Drake.

“As chairman of The Gavin Herbert Eye Institute board,” James Mazzo said, “I take great pride in seeing the completion of the structural frame and in knowing that we will have a world-class eye institute here in Orange County for many years to come.”

Other major supporters have included Abbott Medical Optics, The Allergan Foundation, Julia and George Argyros, the Arnold & Mabel Beckman Foundation, Esther and James H. Cavanaugh, Bill and Marsha Link, and Richard P. Kratz, M.D.

The new eye care facility will include patient exam and waiting areas, the campus’s first outpatient surgery center, an optical shop, faculty offices and conference space. Interior design features recommended by the Braille Institute will make it easier for low-vision patients to navigate within the building.

“With UC Irvine located in the heart of what may be the largest concentration of eye care companies in the world, our ophthalmology group has long dreamed of a place that would allow our patients to benefit from corporate innovation and the pioneering research happening at UC Irvine’s Hewitt Hall and the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center,” said Dr. Roger Steinert, professor and chair of ophthalmology and director of The Gavin Herbert Eye Institute.

“This facility fulfills that dream, providing a state-of-the-art environment in which corporate scientists, researchers and physicians can collaborate on tomorrow’s sight-saving patient care today.”

Nine Gavin Herbert Eye Institute physicians are on the “Best Doctors in America” list compiled by Best Doctors Inc. The team is also recognized for pioneering medical procedures such as refractive surgery using a femtosecond laser rather than a steel blade and a laser-based approach to corneal transplant surgery. Dr. Henry Klassen is investigating stem cell therapies to preserve and restore sight in individuals with retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration.

About The Gavin Herbert Eye Institute: The faculty of internationally recognized physicians, surgeons and scientists at The Gavin Herbert Eye Institute and UC Irvine’s Department of Ophthalmology provide highly specialized training to future ophthalmologists, access to leading-edge clinical trials, and sight-saving treatments and therapies for virtually any eye disorder. The Gavin Herbert Eye Institute’s mission is to develop educational programs, technologies and clinical solutions that enhance visual health and performance for people in Orange County, the nation and the world through cooperation with medical professionals, industry and the community.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led byChancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UCI 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, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $4 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.

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