The Mark J. Daily Inherited Retinal Diseases Research Center Celebrated with Ribbon Cutting
For renowned retina specialist, Mark J. Daily, M.D., giving back to his alma mater—the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine—is an easy decision. Daily, who completed his residency and retina fellowship at Bascom Palmer in 1978, says his successful career would not have been possible without the transformational education he received.
“I was so fortunate to come to Bascom Palmer because I was studying with the giants of ophthalmology,” said Daily, who is a retina specialist at the Wheaton Eye Clinic in Wheaton, Illinois. “Giants such as Edward Norton, Victor Curtin, J. Donald Gass, Robert Machemer, J. Lawton Smith, Douglas Anderson, Richard Forster. They were able to instill a little of their education and knowledge into me.”
In gratitude, Daily made a $5 million gift to establish the Mark J. Daily Inherited Retinal Diseases Research Center Endowment at the Miller School to advance innovative research in the field of inherited retinal diseases.
A Home for Retinal Disease Research
In exchange for his generosity, University, Miller School and Bascom Palmer leadership came together recently to symbolically cut the ribbon on the Mark J. Daily Inherited Retinal Diseases Research Center, which will provide a home for scientific research, clinical trials, patient care, and medical education into inherited retinal disease.
“I cannot thank Mark enough for choosing to invest in the future of discovery and innovations in retinal diseases research at Bascom Palmer,” said Eduardo C. Alfonso, M.D., director of Bascom Palmer, chair of the Miller School’s Department of Ophthalmology and the Kathleen and Stanley J. Glaser Endowed Professor in Ophthalmology. “His gift will impact every patient who is treated within his named center, and the spillover of the discoveries will reach patients all over the world.”
A National Leader Enters a New Era
The center will usher in a new era for the Institute’s growing team of retinal specialists and will provide clinical care and specialized testing in the Institute’s main hospital building, while dedicated research space will be located within the Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Vision Research Center.
“The Mark J. Daily Inherited Retinal Diseases Research Center has created a place where laboratory science is translated into medical cures—bringing solutions and hope to patients who otherwise face irreversible vision loss,” said Henri R. Ford, M.D., M.H.A., dean and chief academic officer of the Miller School. “The Center will be a collaborative hub where our gifted physician-scientists study and treat debilitating congenital diseases of the retina, ultimately preserving vision and even reversing the effects of blinding diseases.”
Today, the center in Daily’s name boasts one of the largest gene therapy programs in the nation, with several successful clinical trials, and additional trials and studies on the way, according to the Director Byron L. Lam, M.D., the Mark J. Daily Chair in Ophthalmology, medical director of clinical research, professor of ophthalmology and academic division chief and medical director of neuro-ophthalmology.
“This is really a great opportunity that Mark has given us,” said Lam. “We are so grateful that we will be better clinical-scientists, and advance this field.”
Inherited retinal diseases (IRD) affect millions of people globally, reducing vision and causing blindness. There are more than 300 types of IRD, which usually result from a mutation in one or more of the genes that code for a retinal protein.
A History of Philanthropy
In addition to being an alumnus, Daily is one of Bascom Palmer’s major benefactors. In 2016, he established the Mark J. Daily Endowed Chair in Ophthalmology to support critical retinal research. He is also establishing a second endowed chair, which will be celebrated in the near future.
For Daily, who is still a practicing ophthalmologist after 46 years, philanthropy is his way of paying his good fortune forward.
“You have a certain responsibility of what you’re going to do with your resources,” said Daily. “You can buy a really big house, or a Rolls Royce would be nice, or can you find an institution where, if you present them with resources, they’re going to use it responsibly and they’re going to help patients throughout the world.”