With the cutting of a broad ribbon, a new era of breakthrough research and clinical treatment became a reality at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute’s brand-new Lois Pope Center for Retinal and Macular Degeneration Research, a 21,000-square-foot facility dedicated to ending blinding retinal diseases.
Held January 15, the ribbon-cutting declared the Center — a beacon of hope for many — open for business, one year after the ceremonial “wall-breaking” when construction began.
Philanthropist Lois Pope, who donated a historic $12 million to the effort, cut the ribbon with a flourish, ushering in an extraordinary opportunity to find new treatments and cures for eye disease. Mrs. Pope announced the gift, the largest in Bascom Palmer’s history, in March 2019 in honor of her beloved mother, Anastasia Berrodin, who lost her sight from macular degeneration. She told family, friends and the University of Miami leadership gathered for the event that it was her mother’s memory that spurred her to action.
“When I realized it was taking away her ability to see the beauty of all that is around us, how she began to miss out on the simple pleasures of life, that is when I committed myself to do all I could do to join the fight to conquer this disease,” Mrs. Pope said. “That’s why it is such an honor for me to cut the ribbon on this amazing facility.”
Age-related macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss among people age 60 and older. It causes damage to the macula, the center of the retina, and the part of the eye that is responsible for central vision, which lets people read, drive and recognize faces. While Bascom Palmer is internationally renowned in the treatment of retinal disease, researchers say there’s more work to be done to find a cure.
“I want to thank Mrs. Pope for providing us with the capital to open this state-of-the-art retinal research center and for creating an endowment that ensures research will be funded into the future,” said Eduardo C. Alfonso, M.D., director of Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, professor and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at UM’s Miller School of Medicine and the Kathleen and Stanley J. Glaser Chair in Ophthalmology. “She has given patients a generous gift; her name is now woven into the fabric of Bascom Palmer’s history.”
Equipped with the latest research, diagnostic and imaging technology, the Center houses state-of-the-art training facilities. Located on Bascom Palmer’s Palm Beach Gardens campus, the expanded space allows the Bascom Palmer team of physician-scientists to quadruple the output of research and clinical trials. The Center will focus on several vital research areas, including gene therapy, regenerative medicine, transplantation and new drug therapies.
“The opening of this Center is the very definition of the ’excellence’ that we strive for throughout our UHealth and the University overall,” said Edward Abraham, UHealth CEO and executive vice president for health affairs. Mrs. Pope’s generosity ensures we will maintain this standard and, indeed, continue to be known as the destination health center for ophthalmic care — not just locally, but around the nation and the world.
Mrs. Pope has paved the way for significant UM research and patient care programs, including establishing the Lois Pope LIFE Center at the Miller School, the world’s foremost center for research, treatment and services for paralysis and other neurological diseases, and home to The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.
“Because of donors like Mrs. Pope, the University of Miami can transform lives through education, research, innovation and service,” said Julio Frenk, president of UM. “She continues to create the perfect conditions for us to harness our full potential and deliver pioneering treatments and cures. We are grateful for her dedication to our mission.”
Even as she cut the ribbon on the new Center bearing her name, Mrs. Pope vowed to continue her commitment to ending retinal diseases.
“This is the beginning of an ongoing practice and a partnership,” she said. “I truly believe it will result in the hopes of so many and in victory over this horrible disease.”