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UC Davis opens new state-of-the-art eye care facility


The Ernest E. Tschannen Eye Institute is dedicated to eye care and sight restoration through technology, pioneering research and eye care clinicians.

UC Davis Health this week welcomed the first patients to its new state-of-the-art Ernest E. Tschannen Eye Institute Building.

According to a university news release, the facility is dedicated to advancing world-class eye care and offering hope for sight restoration through advanced technology, pioneering research and eye care clinicians.

The new state-of-the-art Ernest E. Tschannen Eye Institute Building.

The new state-of-the-art Ernest E. Tschannen Eye Institute Building.

“The tremendous generosity of Ernest E. Tschannen, along with the many donors who joined him, made this new building a reality,” UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May said in a statement. “Our faculty are able to carry out their transformational work and make a global impact, all while training the next generation of ophthalmologists and serving the public.”

The university noted in the news release that the 78,500-square-foot building is an addition to the existing Ambulatory Care Center, which underwent a partial renovation. The four-story building includes dedicated space for the UC Davis Eye Center clinic and operations, physician offices and conference areas. The third floor houses the Division of Pain Medicine, with clinic exam rooms and procedure rooms.

“This is a great moment in the history of UC Davis Health and a giant step forward for our deserving patients and for the physicians who care for them,” Mark J. Mannis, MD, FACS, the Fosse Endowed Chair in Vision Science Research and professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Science, said in the news release. “We are thankful for the generous donation from our friend, Mr. Tschannen, and all our other supporters. Their generosity, hard work and dedication made this vision a reality.”

Design accommodates people with low vision

The Ernest E. Tschannen Eye Institute contains 64 examination rooms. (Photos courtesy of UC Davis Health)

The Ernest E. Tschannen Eye Institute contains 64 examination rooms. (Photos courtesy of UC Davis Health)

According to the university, the building offers a comfortable and intuitive experience for all. Visitors to the Eye Center are welcomed with high-contrast colors and textures to help people with low vision find their way around more easily. The common spaces radiate relaxation with home-like furnishings and natural light.

Visitors may also notice the vibrant art collection, which includes paintings from former patients who had their vision restored and from an artist who is blind and deaf. Common areas also contain display cases with antique ophthalmology tools and eyewear.

Moreover, the university noted in the release that the new facility will significantly increase the clinic’s capacity to see patients, with 64 examination rooms and 24 imaging rooms, which use state-of-the-art equipment to assess eye health. A special suite is dedicated to pediatric ophthalmology and features bright colors, fun artwork and a play area.

The Eye Center clinic on the second floor is dedicated to refractive surgery and oculoplastic surgery.

The first floor also includes an optical shop with eyewear for adults and children.

Researchers and clinicians in the same building

The new building also houses the Eye Center’s leading vision researchers, who have received prestigious grants from the National Eye Institute. 

Mannis estimates the new facility will increase the center’s capacity for clinical trials by 50 percent. The center is currently involved in clinical trials in stem cell treatment for vision loss, low-energy laser trabeculoplasty therapy for glaucoma, micropulse laser treatment for diabetic macular edema, and several others.

Common areas contain display cases with antique ophthalmology tools and eyewear. (Photos courtesy of UC Davis Health)

Common areas contain display cases with antique ophthalmology tools and eyewear. (Photos courtesy of UC Davis Health)

The Center of Ocular Regenerative Therapies, housed on the second floor, is researching gene and transplant therapies for inherited retinal diseases that, until now, have had no effective treatment.

“UC Davis is able to achieve breakthroughs in eye health because we are a unique academic medical center with an interdisciplinary approach to helping people live better, healthier, more fulfilling lives,” said David Lubarsky, CEO of UC Davis Health and vice chancellor of human health sciences. “The Ernest E. Tschannen Eye Institute Building is a perfect embodiment of our mission at UC Davis Health.”

A generous vision

According to the university, the project began with an $18.5 million gift from Ernest E. Tschannen, whose sight was restored by an ophthalmologist at the Eye Center. Additional funding for the building’s construction came from UC Davis Medical Center and other generous donors.

In 2000, Tschannen began losing his sight to glaucoma. When untreated, the disorder can result in vision loss and blindness. In 2011, Tschannen’s ophthalmologist referred him to the UC Davis Eye Center, where he underwent eye surgery by ophthalmologist Michele C. Lim, MD, to improve his vision and manage his glaucoma.

In his remarks at a building dedication ceremony in September, Tschannen, who is 97, said he hoped the facility would help people have better health and better lives for generations to come.

“My thanks to all the people involved in putting up this building,” he said. “I thank them for their efforts and hard work to get it finished. I just cannot thank you enough.”

Tschannen also gave special recognition to Lim, the medical director of the Eye Center, and thanked everyone for what they had done for him.

Tschannen’s lifetime giving totals exceed $38.5 million, making him UC Davis Health’s largest individual donor. His funds have supported research on the optic nerve and glaucoma.

Building the best

According to the university news release, architect Chris Downey and the consulting team worked closely with the Eye Center’s clinicians and scientists to fully incorporate their unique needs for the space. Downey, who lost his sight in 2008, has dedicated his career to improving environments for the vision impaired.

San Francisco firm TEF and national firm HGA partnered on the design of the building. McCarthy Building Companies Inc. and Vanir Construction Management handled the construction.

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