Administrators have begun planning for the construction of a new Duke Eye Center.
The new 127,000-square-foot facility, which will be built in the parking lot next to the current Wadsworth Eye Center on Erwin Road, will increase the number of examination rooms available and improve patient care and workflow. The building will also feature state-of-the-art optical imaging technologies to assist in patient diagnosis. Construction is planned to begin this summer and is projected to be completed by early 2015.
“The new building will allow the Duke Health system to provide the best care for its patients,” said Dr. Victor Dzau, chancellor for health affairs and president and CEO of the Duke University Health System. “Eye disease is becoming increasingly prevalent, especially as the population gets older. Our facilities must keep up with the patients’ needs.”
Dzau noted that the new eye center will improve patient flow in the hospital and may even have an impact on the Durham community. The expansion of Duke Medicine will create more jobs that can contribute to the economy in Durham.
The new facility will address patient needs better than the 35-year-old Wadsworth building, which is not designed to host a large number of patient visits, said Dr. David Epstein, John A.C. Wadsworth clinical professor, chair and director of ophthalmology at the School of Medicine and director of the Duke Eye Center. Currently, patients have to travel from one end of the building to the other to get treatment.
“Originally, the Wadsworth building was designed for 12 doctors and 15,000 patient visits, but we currently have 50 doctors and nearly 80,000 patient visits annually.” Epstein said. “In the new facility, the instrumentation will be patient-centered, and the extra space will allow us to train medical students, as well.”
When planning for the facility began in 2010, Durham-based LC Industries, the largest employer of visually impaired people in the United States, contributed $12 million for the construction of the new building.
“This is a vision that has come true,” said William Hudson, president of LC Industries and chair of the Eye Center Advisory Board, in a Duke Medicine press release. “We developed a relationship with the eye center early on, because it is a perfect partnership. We provide jobs for the visually impaired, we provide educational opportunities, but we can’t conduct research on eye diseases or offer vision care. The Eye Center takes over where we left off. This new facility is a win-win for everyone.”
Epstein noted that the completion of the new facility may have a positive effect on the Duke Eye Center’s reputation, currently ranked seventh nationally, according to U.S. News and World Report.
“We have the oldest clinical facility of any top-20 eye program in the country,” Epstein said. “After the new building opens, we may be ranked first in the country.”