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Waterloo Eye Institute Breaks Ground

Construction to start on the Waterloo Eye Institute, Canada’s premier optometric center for eye and vision care and research.

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Waterloo Eye Institute Breaks Ground

(PRESS RELEASE) A ceremonial groundbreaking on June 7, 2024, marked the start of construction on the Waterloo Eye Institute (WEI), a $55 million initiative to build Canada’s premier optometric center. The once-in-a-generation project will create 68,000 square feet of new and renovated space where professors, clinicians, students and researchers will push the boundaries of eye and vision care, education and research.

The event will feature numerous dignitaries, including the Right Honorable David Johnston, 28th Governor General of Canada, former University of Waterloo president and honorary chair of the Seeing Beyond 20/20 fundraising campaign.

“It is imperative that Canadians have access to care when they need it most,” said Johnston. “Helping people see is crucial for individual quality of life as well as for productivity, equity and inclusion on a national level. The WEI will change vision care not only for patients in Waterloo Region but also for the underserved communities that will benefit from the teleoptometry center and the future patients who will benefit from the WEI’s research.”

“The WEI is a perfect example of how the University of Waterloo applies its research strengths to benefit communities locally and globally,” said Vivek Goel, president and vice-chancellor. “It addresses a growing need for specialized care in our region and beyond in areas such as vision therapy, myopia control and dry eye disease, while combining deep insights from across academic disciplines to solve complex health problems facing humanity.”

The School of Optometry and Vision Science has raised $27.5 million of its $35 million goal. Leading gifts include $5 million from FYidoctors, which was comprised of $2.5 million from Alan and Karen Ulsifer and individual member optometrists and then matched with a $2.5 million gift from the company; $3.5 million from IRIS; $2 million from Dr. Marta Witer (OD ’79) and the Ihnatowycz Family Foundation; $1.5 million from longtime supporters Dr. George (OD ’64, DSc ’19) and Judy Woo; $1 million from the Region of Waterloo; and $600,000 from Dr. Carol Cressman (OD ’79).

“This project has been a long time in the making, so it’s great to see our moonshot being realized,” said Dr. Stanley Woo, director of the School. “The support from so many people is a testament to how much the WEI is needed as a centre of excellence for optometric care, research and education. We’re grateful to everyone who has contributed in big and small ways.”

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During the construction process, all patient care will move to a nearby interim location, which will offer all services currently offered at 200 Columbia St. W., from comprehensive eye exams for all ages to specialized services such as vision therapy, low vision rehabilitation, advanced contact lenses and ocular disease care.

Construction of the Waterloo Eye Institute is expected to take about two years, with a tentative grand opening in fall 2026. The completed building will be an expanded and modernized space that emphasizes the patient care pathway to create a positive experience and health outcomes. Updating the facilities to match the state-of-the-art care provided will be a boon for students as they prepare for the contemporary practice of optometry. A teleoptometry centre will harness emerging technology to increase access to comprehensive remote eye care for rural, remote and underserved communities.

The second floor will feature two new research hubs. The Canadian Vision Imaging Centre will develop and expand advanced eye imaging technology to investigate diseases of the eye, brain, and body. The Biomedical Sciences research hub will enable groundbreaking, fundamental science to explore new materials and techniques to better understand cellular aging processes in the eye, drug delivery, relevant nanomaterials and more. These facilities will support graduate students and encourage talented scientists from around the world to choose the University of Waterloo.

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