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CU Eye Center gains momentum from $2 million donation

In appreciation of the outstanding treatment she received from University of Colorado ophthalmologists, Sue Anschutz-Rodgers has donated $2 million that, combined with other commitments, establishes the Sue Anschutz-Rodgers Endowed Chair in Retinal Diseases. This endowment fund, which will support CU School of Medicine research in retinal diseases, represents a strong vote of confidence as CU prepares for ophthalmology program growth and greater impact in the coming years.   

The initial holder of the Sue Anschutz-Rodgers Endowed Chair in Retinal Diseases will be Naresh Mandava, MD. Dr. Mandava is Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and Executive Director of the CU Eye Center, located at University of Colorado Hospital. An endowed chair gift provides a reliable and perpetual stream of faculty research funding, is a public indicator of a program’s prestige, and helps universities recruit and retain top talent.

“Sue Anschutz-Rodgers’s generosity in establishing the first endowed chair in the Department of Ophthalmology is commendable, and I am extremely grateful,” Mandava says. “We have the right people in place as well as the infrastructure to find solutions for macular degeneration, and develop one of the top retinal research programs in the world.”

Mandava has spent the last 16 years researching age-related macular degeneration (a leading cause of vision loss in people over age 60, for which there are therapies but currently no cure) and other retinal diseases. His research focus is toward finding solutions through new technologies in imaging, drug therapy, and artificial vision. Under Mandava’s leadership, the University of Colorado has pioneered the concept of stimulating the retina with photovoltaic nanoparticles, which have the potential to restore sight in blind people.  

“My gift honors the outstanding clinical care and research that has flourished at the University of Colorado School of Medicine under Dr. Mandava’s leadership,” says Sue Anschutz-Rodgers, a philanthropist, rancher, and conservationist. “My hope is that the gift will inspire others to support the eye care and groundbreaking research that will be critical to the Rocky Mountain region, and to those suffering from diseases of the eye everywhere.”

The gift comes at a time of outstanding momentum for the University of Colorado Eye Center, a research and clinical center based at the Anschutz Medical Campus, and the only academic eye center within a 500-mile radius.

The CU Eye Center has set a goal of establishing new, interconnected research programs in six high-priority areas and doubling its annual patient capacity from 75,000 to 150,000. The latter would be enabled in part by an anticipated tripling of space at its home at the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Institute building in University of Colorado Hospital.

This “Bringing Sight to Life” CU initiative will depend heavily on private support, and the program hopes that Sue Anschutz-Rodgers’s gift will generate attention and momentum for this fundraising effort, and for the caliber of eye care and research at CU. With more than 50 faculty members in the Department of Ophthalmology, CU’s program is growing rapidly to rival the size of the largest departments in the country. CU has been the first U.S. academic center to perform femtosecond laser cataract surgery, and the first to discover use of silicone oil to mitigate radiation damage to the eye, among other pioneering achievements.

Anschutz family members have been integral to the rapid development of CU’s 227-acre health sciences campus in Aurora.

Sue Anschutz-Rodgers’s gift is one of more than 275,000 gifts made during Creating Futures, a $1.5 billion fundraising campaign to enhance University of Colorado education, research, outreach, and health programs benefiting citizens throughout and beyond Colorado. Visit cufund.org for more information.