The University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Ophthalmology will establish the Research to Prevent Blindness/Susan and Dowd Ritter Endowed Chair in Ophthalmology Research with a $3.75 million endowment, one of the largest in UAB history.
The endowment will enable the department to recruit a world-class scientist to join its existing roster of international experts in the study of blinding diseases such as macular degeneration and glaucoma.
The endowment is funded by Research to Prevent Blindness, the largest nonprofit organization dedicated to funding eye research in the world, the EyeSight Foundation of Alabama, the department’s and university’s largest donor, and Susan and Dowd Ritter. Both RPB and ESFA have a long history of support for UAB and recognized that they could leverage their individual philanthropic impact with equal matching support from an additional private philanthropic partner.
Dowd Ritter, former CEO of Regions Bank, and his wife, Susan, agreed to become that private partner and pledged to provide the crucial third matching gift.
|The endowment will enable the department to recruit a world-class scientist to join its existing roster of international experts in the study of blinding diseases such as macular degeneration and glaucoma.|
“We’ve gone to the Department of Ophthalmology for family eye care for years, and all the doctors we’ve encountered have been fabulous — it’s a stellar part of UAB, and as it grows is going to be a real jewel for the city,” said Susan Ritter. “We liked the fact that this is a public and private partnership that’s going to allow UAB to bring top ophthalmology researchers to Birmingham to improve vision care for the entire world.”
Christopher A. Girkin, M.D., chair of the UAB Department of Ophthalmology and holder of the EyeSight Foundation of Alabama Endowed Chair of Ophthalmology, says UAB researchers have made many significant contributions to vision science, many of them funded by RPB, an organization that has been associated with nearly every major breakthrough in the understanding and treatment of vision loss over the past 50 years.
“RPB’s partnership with the Ritters and the EyeSight Foundation provides an opportunity at a critical juncture for expansion of the department’s research program,” Girkin said. “Having a $3.75 million endowed chair will enable us to recruit another stellar individual who will add even more depth and breadth to our already outstanding research faculty.”
RPB has awarded grants and pledges totaling $2.18 million to the School of Medicine at UAB since 2008.
“RPB is interested in supporting upward trajectory in vision science, so this concept of a highly leveraged endowed research chair with potential to attract a truly excellent national vision researcher to UAB was appealing to us,” said RPB President Brian F. Hofland, Ph.D. “We see this project at UAB as an effort that may well prove to be a model for other such partnerships in other parts of the country.”
The ESFA is also supportive of Girkin’s vision for the department’s research goals, according to Torrey DeKeyser, executive director of the organization.
“Under his leadership, there is an emphasis on research that is generating excitement among the scientists, and this collaborative endowed chair will help boost and continue this momentum,” she said. “The EyeSight Foundation board and staff could not be more pleased to be part of this strategic funding collaboration with the Ritters and Research to Prevent Blindness.”