The University of Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary

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The University of Illinois Eye & Ear Infirmary houses the departments of ophthalmology (Eye) and otolaryngology (Ear, nose & throat) of the University of Illinois College of Medicine. Located in the heart of the Illinois Medical District, the Infirmary is a leading center for research and treatment of disorders of the eye, ear, nose, throat, and head/neck. The Department of Otolaryngology is the oldest department of its kind in the U.S.

Over the past three decades, the Infirmary has been a leading recipient of funding from the National Eye Institute (NEI), part of the NIH.[1]


19th Century[edit]

Founded in May 1858 by a 30-year-old physician named Edward Lorenzo Holmes as the Chicago Charitable Eye and Ear Infirmary, the department predates the UIC College of Medicine. The Infirmary took up just a single room in a frame building at 60 North Clark Street in Chicago, and the first patient arrived before the room was even ready. That initial year of operation, the Infirmary had 95 eye patient visits. Most of the patients had eye infections, with only one cataract case seen.

The private organization was registered as an infirmary “association,” with a slate of officers and 12 trustees. An influential group of physicians and philanthropists guided the association until the state of Illinois took over the Infirmary’s operations in 1871. The name then changed to the Illinois Charitable Eye and Ear Infirmary. (“Charitable” later was removed from the name because paying patients also were accepted, and in 1874, the name became the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary.)

The Infirmary was totally destroyed by the Chicago Fire of October 9, 1871. Temporary quarters were set up at 137 N. Morgan Street; in 1874 a new building was inaugurated at the corner of Peoria and west Adams street, at a cost of $42,693.59.

When the UIC College of Medicine’s predecessor, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Chicago, opened in 1882, the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary (IEEI) began its long academic affiliation with the University. However, several government officials thwarted efforts for years to bring the Infirmary into the University Hospitals system. Finally in 1943, the IEEI and the University formally agreed to joint operations.

20th Century[edit]

In 1939, the IEEI began one of the nation’s first glaucoma specialty clinics. In 1965, the Infirmary moved to the University’s West Side Medical Campus, to its current location on Taylor Street. The University’s Research and Education (R&E) Hospitals still ran a separate ophthalmology service until 1970, when it was merged into the Infirmary’s ophthalmology department.

On October 19, 1965, new facilities for the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary were formally dedicated by Illinois Governor Otto Kerner, the result of efforts by Ophthalmology department head Peter C. Kronfeld, MD and Otolaryngology department head Francis L. Lederer, MD.

Morton F. Goldberg, MD, head of ophthalmology from 1970 to 1989, increased full-time faculty from one to 25, added numerous ophthalmic subspecialty clinics and a postresidency fellowship program, and began a residency surgical rotation in Madurai, India. During this period, the Lions of Illinois funded $5 million of the $6.8 million cost of building the Lions of Illinois Eye Research Institute—the largest single donation ever given to the department. When the 30,000-square-foot (2,800 m2) institute opened in 1985, it was heralded as the most comprehensive eye research center in the Midwest.

21st Century[edit]


Notable EEI alumni include David J Apple, Eugene R. Folk, Saul Merin, Marilyn T. Miller, Gholam A. Peyman, Maurice Rabb, Howard Schatz, Mark O.M. Tso

Current activity[edit]

The Infirmary's 37 full-time and part-time doctors, as well as 18 ophthalmology residents, treat more than 55,000 patients and perform 2,100 eye operations each year. Currently the National Institutes of Health (NIH) ranks the department 11th nationally in ophthalmology research funding.

The Otolaryngology Department, which offers services in six subspecialties - Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Speech and Voice Care, Sinus & Nasal Allergy, Oncology and Neurology, Cancer of the Head and Neck, and General Otolaryngology - treated nearly 17,000 patients in 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available, making it one of the busiest programs in the country.

In 1985, The Lions of Illinois Eye Research Institute (LIERI) opened at the University of Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary through a generous donation from the Lions Clubs of Illinois. The Institute is part of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and has research laboratories, offices, computer services, core facilities for machine shop, imaging, tissue culture and molecular biology researches, and one of the largest ophthalmology libraries in the country. Research efforts at LIERI are supported by both private and national grant-funding agencies and by the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. LIERI also houses patient care facilities in the Edwin and Lois Deicke Eye Center. Today, the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Illinois Eye Center stands as the most comprehensive eye research facility in the Midwest.


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