Mary Munday, a generous supporter of the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, UC Irvine's Department of Ophthalmology, remembers the turmoil she experienced decades ago when her mother' eyesight began to fail.
Doctors diagnosed Minnie McGinty with macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people over 55. The once-vibrant McGinty was largely confined to her home and very soon she could no longer read or watch TV. Munday not only despaired about her mother, she also worried about her own future, since researchers believe there may be a hereditary component to macular degeneration.
Indeed, her brother and sister later developed the condition.
To protect her sight, Munday began making the long commute from her Orange County home to UCLA's Jules Stein Eye Institute for semi-annual eye exams in the 1970s. About 15 years ago, though, a local ophthalmologist whom she trusted suggested that she give UC Irvine eye specialists a chance.
At the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, part of Orange County's only university hospital, UC Irvine, Munday says she has received topflight vision care from "compassionate, highly skilled eye doctors." When Munday began having fluctuations in vision, for instance, ophthalmologists diagnosed her with dry eye and successfully treated the condition.
Last year, Dr. Jeremiah Tao, an ophthalmologist with advanced training in plastic surgery involving the eyes and orbital area, removed precancerous basal cells from Munday's lower left eyelid. Tao then performed reconstructive surgery to the lower lid by grafting skin taken from an upper eyelid.
Later, Dr. Roger F. Steinert — a cornea, cataract and external disease specialist, and chair of the university's ophthalmology department — excised a precancerous, spider web-like growth from the white conjunctival area of Munday's right eye.
Now, Munday holds UC Irvine Healthcare ophthalmologists in such high esteem that she has become a major supporter of the $60-million campaign to build a campus home for the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute. When completed, the planned 80,000-square-foot institute will be a national center of excellence for eye care and research and the only university-based, full-service multispecialty eye center between San Diego and Los Angeles.
"I want to have a Jules Stein-type of institute here in Orange County, with the latest technology," Munday says. "We deserve one."