WATERLOO, Ontario—With support from the optometry profession, alumni and donors across Canada, construction is set to begin next year on the Waterloo Eye Institute (WEI), a state-of-the-art facility supporting advances in vision research, optometric education and patient care. At a celebration located at Waterloo’s School of Optometry and Vision Science on September 19, donors' gifts totaling $8.5 million from two of the country’s leading vision care providers—FYidoctors and IRIS, The Visual Group—were announced. These contributions and those of other generous donors have enabled the school to turn the corner on its $35 million Seeing Beyond 2020  campaign, making the construction of the Waterloo Eye Institute a reality.

“The Waterloo Eye Institute is needed more than ever as we face a national and global vision crisis, with one in five Canadians at risk of losing their sight from eye disease,” said Dr. Stanley Woo, director of the school.

Dr. Vivek Goel, Waterloo’s president and vice chancellor, noted that “the WEI will leverage both the School of Optometry’s expertise and the university’s unconventional and collaborative approaches to research and education as well as provide excellent care for patients in our community.”

The FYidoctors network made a historical contribution, donating $5 million in support of the WEI (including a $2.5 million corporate donation and $2.5 million in contributions from the company’s individual optometrists). IRIS has donated $2.5 million, in addition to an earlier $1 million gift to the WEI, made in November 2022. With 67,000 square feet of new and renovated space, the WEI will push the boundaries of eye and vision care, clinical education and research to benefit patients in the Waterloo region and across the country.

“The WEI represents the future of optometry in Canada, and it will provide world-class education opportunities, equipping the next generation of optometrists to provide quality eyecare. Students will gain immensely by working alongside health care professionals and experts in the WEI’s modernized clinic,” said Dr. Alan Ulsifer, CEO of FYidoctors.

On top of advancing optometric education and patient care, the WEI has the potential to shape the future of health care. Using the eye as a window to the brain, WEI researchers will deploy their expertise in AI, biomedical sciences and digital imagery to develop new treatments for widespread conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetes.

Dr. Daryan Angle, vice president of business development at IRIS, said, “Our support for the WEI aligns with IRIS’s commitment to funding eye and vision research and innovation. We hope to advance the profession in a way that keeps optometry in Canada healthy, strong and moving forward."

IRIS is a part of New Look Vision Group Canada.