Image of the Johnsons
Dr. Valerie Wallace, Director of Vision Sciences at UHN, left, joins arms with Donald K. Johnson and wife Anna McCowan-Johnson, along with Dr. Robert Devenyi, Ophthalmologist-in-Chief at UHN, during an event Tuesday at the BMO Centre at Toronto Western marking the launch of the Donald K. Johnson Eye Institute. The naming recognizes the long-standing support by the couple of the vision program at UHN.(Photo: John Loper Photography​)​

At a special celebration held on Tuesday evening at the BMO Education & Conference Centre, Dr. Peter Pisters announced that the Donald K. Johnson Eye Centre and the Vision Sciences Program at Krembil Research Institute (Krembil) will unite into a single entity called the Donald K. Johnson Eye Institute.

The naming of the Institute recognizes the long-standing leadership support of the Vision Program at UHN by Don Johnson and his wife, Anna McCowan-Johnson.

 "The principle goal of the Donald K. Johnson Eye Institute will be to facilitate collaboration between clinicians, researchers and educators to advance the latest treatments for people with vision loss," said Dr. Pisters, President and CEO of University Health Network (UHN). "It is our vision to create world-renowned Institutes across all program areas at UHN to help make​ us a more nimble organization to address the healthcare challenges we currently face."

Competitive advantage

The Institute will give UHN a competitive advantage over other organizations by establishing a single branded identity that is visible to patients, academics, industry and government. This prestigious designation will help UHN recruit leaders in the field, establish partnerships with complementary organizations, and attract top students from around the world to learn from the Institute's experts and then return to their communities.

Dr. Robert Devenyi, Ophthalmologist in Chief and Director of Retinal Services at UHN, and Dr. Valerie Wallace, Director of the Vision Science Research Program, the Donald K. Johnson Chair in Vision Research, will act as co-Directors of the Donald K. Johnson Eye Institute. Dr. Devenyi will spearhead clinical activities and Dr. Wallace will lead research initiatives.

"We have the busiest ophthalmology program in the country across five areas of focus: cornea, retina, glaucoma, strabismus and low vision rehabilitation," said Dr. Devenyi. "For our exceptional clinicians, the Institute means a renewed emphasis placed on deepening existing partnerships between them and our scientists while also fostering new joint priorities.

"Together, our priority will be to create a culture of 'best practices,' to ensure our patients receive optimal care in the safest environment."

Krembil, the research arm of Toronto Western Hospital, which was launched in November, 2015, encompasses the three program areas: Vision, Brain and Spine, and Arthritis. The research side of the Donald K. Johnson Eye Institute will continue to be affiliated with Krembil.

Global reputation

Vision scientists at UHN have a global reputation of advancing groundbreaking discovery. The formation of the Institute will serve to accelerate this.

"Our researchers are tackling vision loss on four fronts: understanding disease mechanisms, uncovering solutions to treat glaucoma, curing blindness by reversing retinal degeneration and improving life for those living with blindness," said Dr. Wallace. "At the Institute, clinicians will be cross-appointed as researchers to translate emerging knowledge into practice, providing an enhanced bridge between leading-edge discoveries and improved patient care."

Educating future leaders in the field will also be an important component of the Institute. Clinical fellows will have a greater opportunity to participate in research initiatives, to instil in them a passion for research to carry with them as they advance in their careers.

"We are grateful for Don and Anna's on-going dedication to the organization and in particular, their commitment to improving vision care for all Canadians," said Tennys Hanson, President & CEO, Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation and Vice President & Chief Development Officer, UHN. "Their giving is an inspiration to our team at the foundation and our community of donors, and a demonstration of the power of philanthropy."​

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