New Atwater Eye Care Center opens doors
The Indiana University School of Optometry's $3 million Atwater Eye Care Center swung into full-time operation Jan. 5 at its new campus-centric, high profile location on East Third Street.
Designed to meet the tri-fold mission of providing opportunities for teaching, service and research in a clinical environment of the highest-quality, the 22,000-square-foot building opened its doors at a time of sustained growth that has resulted in record external research funding, broadening clinical services and the acquisition of new, state-of-the-art diagnostic tools.
School of Optometry Interim Dean Sarita Soni cited the opening as a milestone in the 50-plus year history of optometry at IU.
"The new Atwater Eye Care Center heralds another wave of program-building at the School of Optometry as we translate today's research into tomorrow's practice right here in our clinic and influence eye care around the world," she said.
Formerly housed on the second floor of the Atwater Optometry Building, where clinicians averaged about 12,000 patient contacts per year, the new Atwater Eye Care Center stands but a block away in the midst of IU's busy Third Street corridor. The location should provide visitors with an immediate sense of satisfaction as they note the site's improved client access, ground-level service center and adjacent parking.
Equipped with newly marketed diagnostic devices, as well as those being evaluated and developed in the School's research laboratories, the new center offers opportunities for both research and clinical care. The work, which Soni called "central to teaching and patient care," focuses on the early detection and treatment of diseases and disorders of the eye and the visual system.
Eye glass and frame shoppers will be welcomed by a new eyewear and fitting center that carries exclusive frame lines for the community, and the building also houses a cutting-edge video conference center with three large video screens and integrated microphones and Internet access that will link faculty and students to colleagues around the world.
An added benefit to the new clinic's operation is the much-needed additional research and teaching space created at the nearby Atwater Optometry Building. Two floors at that building have been opened up for research labs and offices needed for research on infant vision, glaucoma, ocular imaging, diabetes, macular degeneration, low vision, contact lenses, refractive error and visual optics.
"The new facility will help alleviate space crunch in the Optometry building," said eye care center Director Dr. Khashayar Tonekaboni. "Investigators at the Borish Center for Ophthalmic Research, the school's patient-based research center, will now be able to expand their research programs while continuing daily interactions with faculty and students at the new stand-alone eye care center to promote student learning and patient care."
Soni said the new space needs are a result of an increase in external funding for research that surged from $500,000 in 1998 to more than $5.5 million in 2006. Coinciding with that was an increase in research support staff from four in 1998 to more than 20 currently, growth that will allow the School of Optometry to continue focusing on clinical teaching and research in key areas of need.
"Students are very excited about this new state-of-the-art facility," said Michael Jorgensen, a third-year student at the School of Optometry. "It offers us newly designed and outfitted examination rooms, special testing areas, conference rooms, an upgraded eyewear center and common spaces. The modern facilities will allow us to be better prepared for today's modern practices."
Operating hours for the clinic, located at 744 E. Third St., are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday; and from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday. Kevin Collins will continue as clinic administrator.
In addition to its clinical research programs at the eye care center, the School of Optometry also operates programs at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, provides additional eye care to Indiana citizens through the Community Eye Care Center in west Bloomington and at the Indianapolis Eye Care Center near the IUPUI campus.
Optometry students, faculty and staff also provide year-round eye care to about 7,000 patients in Guanajuato, Mexico, where the IU student group Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity also pays an annual visit. The city of Bloomington recently awarded the School of Optometry its 2008 Parks Partner Award for outstanding support and sponsorship of city programs and events for the school's key role in the Children's Expo and the Senior Expo, where free vision screenings were provided. The school also has a partnership with Monroe County Head Start to provide vision screenings and education to head start teachers.