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Farewell, Sara, and best wishes!

Sara VolzPlease join us in wishing Sara Volz farewell as she is leaving the UI Center for Advancement, (previously the UI Foundation), to pursue her educational goals. Sara has been the department’s lead development officer since November 2014. Today, February 15, is her last day. Information on replacing Sara’s position will be forthcoming. In the interim, Mitch Beckman will be serving as the department’s point person. If you were working with Sara on any gift or donor situations, please let Mitch know to discuss next steps.

Mitch Beckman
Assistant Vice President, Philanthropy
The University of Iowa Center for Advancement
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | 319-530-3373

Iowa Lions Eye Bank | Update

Submitted by Ashley Funkhauser-

On Thursday, February 14, Iowa Lions Eye Bank celebrated new mom Ashley Dockendorf and 8-week-old baby Macy with a baby shower. What a wonderful Valentine’s Day treat!

Ashley and Macy Dockendorf

Banner Campaign features Kelly Yom

Iowa Eye faculty enjoy teaching and mentoring the next generation of ophthalmologists. Dr. Audrey Ko mentored UI medical student Kelly Yom on a project focused on improving patient education before eye surgery. Yom’s research is featured in the University of Iowa Dare to Discover banner campaign. Banners showcasing the discovery and creativity of students and researchers at UI are on display in downtown Iowa City and across campus. More at https://dare.research.uiowa.edu



Welcome, Taylor!

Taylor Owen joined the ophthalmology team on January 22nd as our new Optician Taylor is coming to us after spending 2 years at the UIHC Patient Appointment Center as the Lead Patient Access Specialist for Adult and Child Psychiatry, Women’s Wellness, and Behavioral Health and 1 year with ACT as a Support Specialist.

Taylor is a lifelong Iowa resident and Hawkeye fan, as well as a life-long St. Louis Cardinals fan.

Hometown: Iowa City, IA

Hobbies: Spending time with family (including dog Minnie and Cat Carmelo,) exploring small towns throughout Iowa, and searching for great locally owned businesses (especially restaurants) around the community.


Neither snow nor sleet nor hail can stop...

Neither snow nor sleet nor hail can stop University of Iowa faculty from delivering their appointed visiting professor lectures!  Arlene Drack, MD (peds/genetics) was invited to give Grand Rounds at Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, on Wednesday morning this week, and she and Taylor Dunn, BS (study coordinator peds genetics/gene therapy) were scheduled to do albinism teaching sessions afterward.  With an ice storm and some typical Midwest weather, it became clear they were not going to make it to Milwaukee.  That is when IT superstars Dustin McGranahan and Scott Sanders stepped in, helping to set up a Go-to-Meeting with the Milwaukee team for Grand Rounds, and Skype for the teaching sessions..  Did we mention that in the midst of this, Dr. Drack’s computer crashed, with her talks on it?  No problem for our fearless IT team who updated and reconfigured her computer while loading all the necessary communications apps.  Grand Rounds went extremely well Wednesday morning at 6:45 am and the teaching session, with a slide shown below featuring Taylor on Webcam up in the upper right corner, was a great success, too. In the end the MCW folks were impressed by the Iowans’ tenacity, clinical and research presentations, and especially by our incredible IT team.  As always, it takes a village, and we have one here in Iowa.

IMG 2976

Got Genes?

On Saturday, January 26, Arlene Drack, MD (pediatric ophthalmology/genetic eye disease) led the AAPOS Genetic Eye Disease Committee in presenting a Webinar entitled, “Got Genes?  Case studies of the impact of genetic testing in pediatric ophthalmology.”  The webinar included 13 speakers from 3 different countries and multiple states, as well as participants signing in from far and wide.  Scott Larson, MD (pediatric ophthalmology) hosted a viewing party at his home for University of Iowa faculty, fellows and residents who wanted to participate.  The webinar went smoothly and was very well received.  The AAPOS Genetic Eye Disease Committee is comprised of 14 pediatric genetic eye specialists including the committee chair, Dr. Drack, as well as Alina Dumitrescu, MD, making the University of Iowa well represented on this important committee.

task force IMG 9099

Photo:  Dr. Drack led the AAPOS Genetic Eye Disease Task Force in a workshop at the annual AAPOS meeting last spring; subsequently AAPOS voted to make the Task Force a standing committee of AAPOS.

Adam Hauglid Receives The Scobie Award

The Scobie Award for highest score on the Orthoptics examination was recently awarded to University of Iowa Orthoptics Program graduate Adam Hauglid.  Kathy Fray, CO, presented the plaque to Wanda Pfeiffer, OC(C), COMT,  as a representative of our orthoptics program which is run by Tara Bragg, CO, and medical director Arlene Drack, MD.


Monica Freiburger Receives a Patriotic Employer Award

As an employee serving in the National Guard and Reserve, Iowa Lions Eye Banks Ryan Quesnell recently nominated his supervisor, Monica Freiburger, for a Patriotic Employer Award, and also praised the support of his co-workers who comprise the Donor Eligibility Team. The Patriot Award reflects the efforts made to support citizen warriors through a wide-range of measures including flexible schedules, time off prior to and after deployment, caring for families, and granting leaves of absence if needed. Gary Kinsinger (Iowa ESGR volunteer) and Sarah Aanonson (Volunteer Support Technician) were on-site Tuesday to present Monica with her award.

Monica Receives Award!

DE Team with Award

Plaque for Monica

Ryan’s letter of nomination included the following statements:

“My employer has continuously gone above and beyond in supporting me in my Army National Guard career. They have supported me through countless Army training events that extended over long periods of absence from work. This has all been completed while working in a time sensitive and essential position in cornea donation and transplantation. She (Monica)understands the importance of the mission of the National Guard and is a true Patriot through and through. I would not be able to serve my State and Country in the capacity that I do if it was not for such a supportive employer and coworkers. Words cannot describe the gratitude I feel towards everyone I work with at the Iowa Lions Eye Bank.”

Congratulations, Dr. Fingert and Dr. Anderson!

Exfoliation syndrome is a leading cause of glaucoma worldwide. However, progress in developing better therapies for exfoliation glaucoma has been hindered by the lack of an animal model. Dr. John Fingert and Dr. Michael Anderson have received a two-year, $418,000 research award from the National Eye Institute to create and study animal models of exfoliation glaucoma using a genome editing approach. This research will create the necessary tools to devise and test new therapies for exfoliation glaucoma patients, who make up 10% of the people cared for by the Glaucoma Clinic at UIHC.         

A Gift for the New Year

Jennifer Henry is from north central Iowa and a patient of Dr. Mark Greiner.  Jennifer recently received a cornea transplant.  ILEB would like to share her heartfelt note of thanks to her cornea donor’s family…

Dear and beloved family,

This is a bittersweet note. I am sorry for the death of your loved one, and I am humbly grateful for the donated gift of a cornea. My surgery was January 2nd. What a wondrous gift to begin the New Year with the Gift of Sight! To see creation as we travel again, to see faces of grandchildren again—thank you! May peace be with you.

Humbly and gratefully,


The Wellness Corner

Here are a list of all the fun activities and programs happening this month:

  • My Healthy Life This seven-week challenge will challenge you to explore seven different aspects of well-being. In addition to the weekly individual activities, there is a TEAM BONUS CHALLENGE. (See first week email below WITH BONUS CODE!) 

FAQ: Do I need to register for the Team Bonus Challenge? 

NO, The TEAM BONUS CHALLENGE does not require registration, rather just grab a picture of group of people participating in that week's challenge and submit to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or tag @UIowaLiveWELL on social media for a chance to win that week's prize! (Groups can change each week and don't have to be UI Employees to participate)

  • Curvy Yoga with Recreational Services (Spring Small Group Training attached). Using empathy, respect, and a few yoga props, we'll be exploring yogic techniques in a warm safe space. Curvy Yoga is an all-levels, judgment-free yoga class for people of larger size. We will un-pack common poses and their variations, practice breathing techniques for stress relief, guiding each student to honor the body they bring to the mat today. Session starts Friday, February 15 at the Field House from 12:05pm-12:50pm.
  • 15-Minute Presentations by liveWELL Interns (Spring 2019 Presentation Menu attached)
    • Join the liveWELL Interns for 15-minute educational presentations on the following topics;
      • Move for a Better Brain
      • Mason Jar Healthy Hacks
      • Nutrition 101
      • The Road to Resilience
    • To schedule, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and include at least two dates and times that work for your group to host presentations. Presentations available between now and May 1, 2019.


Welcome to the first week of My Healthy LIFE!  We are excited to have you join us for this seven-week challenge. Track your progress on the My Healthy Life Challenge Game Board (pdf)


This week’s goal is all about getting moving and being active! Obtaining adequate amounts of physical activity during the week important for living a happy and healthy life.

  • It reduces the risk of numerous health complications such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.
  • Being active and moving naturally can be as simple as taking the stairs instead of an elevator or parking further away from a store’s entrance.
  • Little movements are just as important as structured exercise.

Week One Activities:

  1. Take the stairs three days this week
  2. Take a 20 minute walk five times this week at a brisk pace
  3. Track your activity level each day this week
  4. Move during your lunch break three days this week

TEAM BONUS Challenge One: How many steps can your group take in one hour?

Get a group picture with the number of steps visible (on a board, piece of paper, etc.) …then post to Social Media and tag @UIowaLiveWELL or send to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.! All teams who enter the Team Bonus Challenge are entered into a drawing. One group winner each week wins the choice of: 1000 liveWELL Points each, a catered fruit and vegetable tray for the group, or a swag bag of liveWELL prizes.

Week One’s Bonus Code is: MHL-GetActive

To receive points, log into Self-Service and click on My Health and Wellness located under the liveWELL tab. Once in the My Health and Wellness site, enter your bonus code into the Bonus Points Box as identified by My Healthy Life, Week One. You will receive 50 liveWELL points upon entering your bonus code.

Spring 2019 Presentation Menu (pdf)

Spring Small Group Training 2019 (pdf)


$5 Million Donated to the University of Iowa to Accelerate Treatments for Blindness

The University of Iowa and the UI Institute for Vision Research announced today that Alice and John Butler of Dubuque, Iowa, have given $5 million to accelerate progress toward treatments for blinding eye diseases that affect millions of people worldwide. The gift will establish the Alice L. and John E. Butler Vision Research Fund, which will support gene- and stem-cell based treatments for degenerative retinal diseases.  The full story can be read here.


Lindsay Pronk Gives Presentation to 3rd Graders

Lindsay presented to the 3rd grade ELP class at Van Allen this morning. She did a great job.


Esther Baker join Iowa Lions Eye Bank

Iowa Lions Eye Bank welcomes Esther Baker to the organization as executive director. Ms. Baker began at the eye bank on January 7, 2019 and replaces Cindy Reed who retired in October 2018.

Ms. Baker has a Bachelor of Arts in telecommunications and Master of Communications from Michigan State University. She has also received a Master of Business Administration from the Tippie College of Business at the University of Iowa.

Her background includes experience in external relations, strategic planning, program direction, communications and change management. Ms. Baker has previously worked as executive director for Girls on the Run, a non-profit organization focused on self-empowerment for young girls, and as director of external relations for the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Esther Baker HS

Ellie Engelbrecht receives Warren Coleman award from Lions Clubs of Iowa

At the annual Lions Clubs of Iowa Mid-Winter conference on January 12, Ellie Englebrecht, constituent relations coordinator for the Iowa Lions Eye Bank, received the Iowa Lions Foundation Warren Coleman Honorary Award in recognition of her work of educating Lions groups about the eye bank and importance of donation.

This award is named for longtime Executive Secretary-Treasurer Warren Coleman, who has given freely of his time and dedication to the Iowa Lions Foundation and the programs for which it supports. This award is conferred on persons who demonstrate community service and can only be made possible by a contribution of $1,000 to the Iowa Lions Foundation.

Congratulations Ellie!

Ellie   WColeman award

ILEB Holiday Party

Iowa Lions Eye Bank celebrated the holiday season on January 17 with a potluck and white elephant gift exchange. Thank you to everyone that participated in this fun day!


ILEB White Elephant

A Note from a Patient

Emily Salazar shared her family's "I am Thankful For" photo with us.  Brody is a patient of Dr. Dumitrescu and gave her a shout out!  Emily writes:  "From our family thanksgiving. We showed Dr. D today. I wanted her to have a copy. We are truly thankful for her!"


Congratulations, Dr. Ankur Jain

Congratulations to Dr. Ankur Jain, who was just awarded a 2019 Shaffer Grant from the Glaucoma Research Foundation for his proposal, "Autophagy-targeted Treatment for Myocilin-associated Glaucoma”. The award provides $50,000 to support his research to determine how myocilin gene defects cause high eye pressure, optic nerve damage and glaucoma and to develop targeted therapies.

Match Day Results Are In!

The department has selected the next class of residents to train here. The incoming class of 2023 who will join us in July includes:






Mrs. Ottilie “Otty” Blodi

Mrs. Ottilie “Otty” Blodi passed away on Friday, Jan. 4th at the age of 101.  Otty was the wife of former department chair and faculty member, Dr. Frederick Blodi (faculty 1952-1993). A Memorial service will be held at 3 PM, Saturday, February 23, 2019 at Oaknoll Retirement Residence. In lieu of flowers, Otty’s family requests memorials be directed toward the Hancher Circle Fund for The Hancher Guild.


The Blodi family has several connections to our department.  In addition to Fred Blodi being our department’s 3rd chairman, their two children are familiar faces too.  Dr. Christopher Blodi (75BS, 84F-Retina) is an alumnus and was on faculty here from 1985-1992.  He practices in West Des Moines.  Dr. Barbara Blodi (80BA, 87MD) is on faculty at the University of Wisconsin.  Both are ophthalmologists like their father was.

Otty and Fred Blodi have a very interesting life story of how they survived WWII in Austria and ended up in Iowa City.  Her story was featured on Iowa Public Radio’s ‘Talk of Iowa’ program:   http://www.iowapublicradio.org/post/world-war-ii-love-story-otty-and-fred-blodi#stream/0

More about Fred Blodi at: https://medicine.uiowa.edu/eye/about-us/history/about-fc-blodi

About The Update

The Ophthalmology Update is a newsletter for employees of the Department of Ophthalmology. Editor & staff writer: Kelsey Hunold (7-8001) This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; staff writers: Caroline Allen This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; Joe Schmidt This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; copy editor: Peg Harris; Department Head: Keith D. Carter, MD.