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Seeing is believing at the Dean McGee Eye Institute when it comes to a recent $46 million addition to the facility. In the soaring five story Inasmuch Foundation lobby, dignitaries and the institute’s staff and leadership gathered Oct. 3 to dedicate the facility and a piece of art on the lawn looking toward Lincoln Boulevard.
The fanfare, however, was simply a prelude to what the facility will now be able to offer patients. Since 1975 it has been housed in an existing building on the site, but was quickly outgrowing that space. Rather than relocate or tear down the building and start over, private donors funded the 78,000-square-foot addition that seamlessly blends with the 1970s building via walkways from “pavilion A” to “pavilion B.”
above, Dr. Michael Elliott, assistant professor in the department of ophthalmology at the Dean McGee Eye Institute and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, stands in his new lab space. Elliott has been a researcher there since 2000, and in April was one of the first to move into the new $46 million expansion at the institute.
Behind closed doors sits the gleaming new lab space where researchers like Michael Elliott, assistant professor in the department of ophthalmology, have been moving into their new digs over the past few months as their old space is gutted to make way for updated research space. In addition to those already there having more space, the new facility has yet unused space to lure additional researchers. It also provides more capacity for the institute’s 150,000 patients that pass through the doors each year.
The institute provides about $1.5 million each year in care for needy patients from around the state. It has additional clinics in Edmond, northwest Oklahoma City and Lawton.
The institute employs 26 ophthalmologists, five optometrists and 10 research scientists in addition to support staff and administrators.
Gregory Skuta, president and CEO of the institute, said the new facility will help his staff continue their work for those with vision problems and diseases of the eye in the state, and to continue recruiting top talent from around the country. Looking around the Inasmuch Foundation Atrium, he praised the design of Architectural Design Group and general contractor Smith & Pickel Construction. He said it has come a long way since they broke ground on the expansion on an icy day two years ago.
“This new facility will streamline the Dean McGee Eye Institute’s operations and enhance our multiple missions and programs by bringing them together under one roof,” Skuta said. “The tremendous growth of the Institute and our success in recruiting some of the nation’s leading research and clinical talent over the last two decades created crowded conditions and forced us to expand into other facilities. This remarkable new building will foster closer and more effective communication and collaboration as we continue to attract some of the finest minds in the country in vision care and research.”
Also in attendance at the dedication were U.S. Rep. James Lankford, Paul Sieving, director of the National Eye Institute National Institutes of Health and David Parke II, executive vice president and CEO of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
“The Dean McGee Eye Institute is internationally recognized as one of America’s most vibrant centers of basic and clinical research, ophthalmology training, and patient care,” Parke said. “It is in the very top echelon of eye institutes worldwide. The new building will help cement the Dean McGee Eye Institute’s position as a global leader in innovative research, state-of-the-art patient care, and training of the next generation of ophthalmologists.”