Oklahoma City eye care facility gets millions of dollars for research

Monday, November 22nd 2004, 6:34 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma City will get a $30 million boast to its medical research industry.

Officials with the Dean A. McGee Eye Institute plan to announce the expansion to its Oklahoma Health Center campus Monday.

Officials with the institute said they will build a 60,000-square-foot research and clinical facility that will double its research capacity and increase the number of patients it can serve by 40%.

In conjunction with the announced expansion, officials with the National Institutes of Health said they are awarding a $3.7 million grant to help fund the new research and clinical center.

Dr. Paul Sieving, director of the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health, will be among those attending the announcement ceremony.

``By any measure, Dean McGee is one of the premier research institutions in the United States,'' said Dr. Paul Sieving, director of the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health. Sieving is expected to attend Monday's announcement ceremony.

The center is expected to open by the end of 2005.

``In the past decade the Dean McGee Eye Institute has made it a priority to bring some of the nation's finest research and clinical minds to our campus, resulting in an incredible leap from 64th in the nation in research support from the National Institutes of Health to sixth in 2003,'' said David Parke, the institute's president.

``This building expansion campaign will allow us to accelerate that momentum and catapult the institute to the very top of our profession in a few short years.''

The four-story research and clinical center will put a new face on the current facility, which was built in 1975. The expansion will allow for an additional 46 percent more clinical space, 34 percent more for research laboratories and 20 percent for offices and conference rooms.

Hershel Lamirand, executive director of the Oklahoma Health Center Foundation, called the Dean A. McGee Eye Institute a ``premier facility'' for both the city and the state.

``Our board of directors at the Health Center Foundation are very excited about this,'' Lamirand said. ``It's going to be a boom. It's going to be an expansion of jobs, of capital base for the health complex.''

The expansion is the latest in growth at the health center that includes a planned comprehensive cancer center and expansion of the OU Medical Center.

The institute is home to 28 ophthalmologists who staff the adult and pediatric clinics and serve 122,000 patient visits and perform 14,000 surgical procedures each year.

It maintains a mission to serve an indigent population that has no other access to specialized eye care and totals 18 percent of the institute's patient load.

The institute's research group has experienced rapid growth of its work, exploring the causes and cures of such diseases as macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, two of the leading causes of blindness in the nation.