Sue Anschutz-Rodgers Eye Center is a highly visible legacy of longstanding philanthropic partnership

The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and UCHealth announced Tuesday the naming of the UCHealth Eye Center program for philanthropist Sue Anschutz-Rodgers, who has made leadership gifts to accelerate innovative research, speed the development of new therapies and devices, and enhance clinical care. 

These tremendous gifts will enable the Eye Center, headquartered in the 135,000-square-foot Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Institute building at the heart of the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, to further expand its work in ocular stem cell research for sight restoration, to retain and recruit top faculty, and to grow its clinical care network throughout Colorado and the region, serving the rapidly increasing demand for top-quality eye care. 

Sue Anschutz-Rodgers with Dr. Naresh Mandava
Sue Anschutz-Rodgers with Dr. Naresh Mandava.

“Sight has always been incredibly important to me,” said Sue Anschutz-Rodgers, “and when I learned that I could eventually lose my eyesight due to macular degeneration, I felt I had to do something to bring the life-changing care I was receiving to future generations. I have 100 percent trust in the care offered there and hope that the research underway today will ultimately lead to a cure.” Anschutz-Rodgers also credits service organization Lions Clubs International for having the vision many years ago to establish eye centers worldwide. 

CU Anschutz Medical Campus Chancellor Donald M. Elliman, Jr., said the gift further underscores the impact that Anschutz-Rodgers has had on the campus. “With a long history of gifts supporting cancer research, women’s health, faculty, scholarships and more, Sue has made an immeasurable difference across our campus,” Elliman said. “I can think of no more fitting recognition of her commitment to transforming ophthalmology than to see her name associated with the Eye Center for decades to come.”

World-class eye care, research

 “Sue Anschutz-Rodgers has been making a difference in our community and at our university for a number of years and her generous contribution will have a tremendous impact on the lives of thousands of people,” said CU President Bruce D. Benson. “It will significantly advance the stellar work at the Eye Center and continue its momentum toward becoming one of the top eye care, research and training facilities in the world.”

Renowned retinal diseases expert Naresh Mandava, MD, has led the UCHealth Eye Center for nearly 14 years, overseeing its rapid growth and development as one of largest in the country. Mandava is chair of the CU Department of Ophthalmology and holds the Sue Anschutz-Rodgers Endowed Chair in Retinal Diseases, established by Sue Anschutz-Rodgers in 2013 in gratitude for the care she received from Mandava and his team. Under his leadership, the center’s physicians and researchers have grown from 55 in 2012 to 82 in 2017. Since then, total patient visits have more than doubled to over 100,000 annually.

Speeding lab-to-clinic therapies

“We are living in an incredible time for vision research and care, and our location on one of the country’s top academic medical campuses means we have the talent, the resources and the networks to do even more,” said Mandava. “This generous investment from Sue Anschutz-Rodgers will ensure our ability to leverage the momentum we’ve built to take new devices and therapies from the lab to the clinic more quickly than ever before, and to preserve and restore sight for people battling a wide range of conditions and diseases.”  

UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital President and CEO Will Cook said the gift will make a measurable difference for patients and the future of ophthalmology. “The Sue Anschutz-Rodgers Eye Center is a vital campus program and one that reflects the Anschutz Medical Campus’s reputation for excellence among top academic health centers nationwide,” Cook said. “We are tremendously grateful for this gift and all that it will make possible for our skilled staff and the patients they serve.” 

Leadership contributions from the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Institute Foundation enabled University of Colorado Hospital to construct its original Eye Center building in 2001. “Having been the original donor to the building, the Lions are excited about the impact this tremendous gift will have on the future of eye care,” said John Harper, president of the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Institute Foundation. “We look forward to the continued growth of the Sue Anschutz-Rodgers Eye Center program.” Private gifts and a large institutional investment were instrumental in executing a recent $32 million expansion of the facilities on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. 

CellSight program

The new and modern Eye Center space opened in 2015 and features specialized clinical centers for expert treatment of macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts and other conditions, as well as a comprehensive surgical center outfitted with the latest technologies. In 2016, a successful $10 million challenge initiative made possible the establishment of the CellSight program, which is a partnership with the Gates Center for Regenerative Medicine focused on developing stem cell technologies to restore sight. 

The only academic eye center within a 500-mile radius, the Sue Anschutz-Rodgers Eye Center is the highest-volume provider of academic vision care between St. Louis, Missouri, and Salt Lake City, Utah. In addition to patient care, the center is committed to graduate medical education, training more than 20 ophthalmology residents and fellows every year. The CU Department of Ophthalmology is widely recognized for innovation, with many faculty firsts – from the development of the first modular intraocular lens for cataract surgery and the Kahook Dual Blade for glaucoma treatment, to conducting the first bionic eye implant in the Rocky Mountain region. 

“Our ophthalmology faculty are among the world’s best and this gift is a vote of confidence in the work they do every day,” said University of Colorado School of Medicine Dean John J. Reilly, Jr., MD. “Future generations will have Sue Anschutz-Rodgers to thank for ensuring our continued ability to bring the best and brightest physician-researchers to the Anschutz Medical Campus to bring the latest research to bear to deliver the highest-quality eye care.”

Guest contributor: Article written by Trisha Kendall, director of communications, Office of Advancement. 

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