Corneal Surgeon Commits More Than $4M to University of Rochester in Memory of Late Wife

Dec. 5, 2013

Longtime Flaum Eye Institute ophthalmologist James Aquavella, M.D., recently committed more than $4 million to the University of Rochester in memory of his late wife, Kay, who was a nurse, educator, and administrator who helped build the foundation for the eye institute.

The gift will support two endowed professorships at the School of Medicine and Dentistry: the Catherine E. Aquavella Distinguished Professorship in Ophthalmologyand the James V. Aquavella, M.D., Professorship in Ophthalmology.

An expert in corneal transplants, Aquavella is known worldwide for his research and clinical work with artificial corneal implants for infants and children, which have restored sight to patients as young as a few weeks old.

Until recently, Aquavella was the only ophthalmic surgeon in the world performing infant artificial corneal transplants and he has trained corneal surgeons all over the world in this type of corneal transplantation. Now there are three other centers in the U.S. offering this procedure. 

“This is a wonderful way for Dr. Aquavella to honor his wife, Kay, and to demonstrate his continued support for the missions of the Flaum Eye Institute,” said Steven Feldon, M.D., M.B.A., chair of Ophthalmology.

A professor of Ophthalmology, Aquavella was the first fellowship-trained corneal surgeon in the United States when he established a Rochester practice in the mid-1960s, as a specialist in cornea and external eye disease. He continues to be a leader in clinical practice, surgery, education, and research.  He is a cofounder and past president of the Cornea Society, a director of the Eye Bank Association of America, and has served as a consultant to the Food and Drug Administration and Tissue Banks International. A past president of the Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists, Aquavella is well known for his work in the development of the therapeutic contact lens and the collagen shield.

In addition to providing the best possible eye care, Aquavella is an internationally-recognized lecturer, textbook author, and researcher with more than 350 publications. His research interests include the ocular surface tear film, cornea wound healing and keratoprosthesis (artificial cornea transplantation).

Aquavella graduated from Johns Hopkins University and earned his medical degree from the University of Naples. He is certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology and has been a member of the health team at the Kings County Medical Center, Brooklyn Eye and Ear Hospital, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Harvard University, and the Schepens Eye Research Institute in Boston. He is a recipient of the American Academy of Ophthalmology Honor and Senior Honor Awards.