Institute marks 45th anniversary with new department chief

September 15, 2004

The institute will continue to focus on the development of the clinician-scientist model.

This year, in celebrating its 45th anniversary, the institute is operating under the watch of George A. (Jack) Cioffi, MD. On June 1, the clinician/scientist began his new role as chief of ophthalmology and ophthalmology research at the private, non-profit, non-academic research institute, which is affiliated with Legacy Health System in Portland, OR.

Dr. Cioffi is the third chief of ophthalmology at Devers, following his immediate predecessor, E. Michael Van Buskirk, MD, who retired May 31 after 30 years in the field, and Richard Chenoweth, MD, who was named the institute's first department chief in 1973.

"The biggest honor [in accepting this appointment] is that we are building on a 45-year heritage," Dr. Cioffi said. "It was really started with the most noble of missions-to serve the folks who couldn't help themselves-by a man who had a very debilitating eye disease but was wealthy and could help them out. Through foundation gifts and charitable giving, we have not only been able to continue that mission but to extend it. And the extension is that we now not only serve the indigent through clinical care but we have a world-class research group and an educational mission."

Keith Marton, MD, chief medical officer of Legacy Health System, called Dr. Cioffi an "internationally known expert in glaucoma care and ophthalmologic research" and a "natural choice" to replace Dr. Van Buskirk. Board certified in ophthalmology, Dr. Cioffi has worked in Portland for 13 years and most recently served as director of glaucoma services and director of Discoveries in Sight research unit at Devers.

"Over the last decade, the growth of Devers Eye Institute has been mainly by the addition of clinician-scientists," he said. "And when I talk about clinician-scientists, I think about them in terms of individuals who can formulate the research or scientific question based on their clinical experience and then help to answer that question because they have the resources and scientific know-how to tackle a problem. In other areas of medicine this is called 'bench top to bedside' medicine, which doesn't really apply as well in ophthalmology. It's really about what they call transitional research."

Devers Eye Institute will also continue to work with what it affectionately considers its "cross-town rival," the Casey Eye Institute, an affiliate of the Oregon Health & Science University that is operated by Professor and Chairman Joseph E. Robertson, MD. The combined research programs rank among the top five for funding in eye research in North America.