Donation from former faculty member will support potential stem cell therapy for retinal regeneration in eye disease
Susanna Soon-Chun Park, a vitreoretinal surgery specialist, was inducted Nov. 6 as the inaugural holder of the Barbara A. and Alan M. Roth, M.D. Endowed Chair for Discovery, Education and Patient Care.
The special ceremony was at the new SMUD Museum of Science and Curiosity.
“Dr. Park is a brilliant clinician-scientist, and her dedication to discovery that leads to treatments and cures for patients with vision loss or no vision, is inspiring. We are honored that she is a member of our distinguished faculty,” Mannis said.
In the clinic, Park provides surgical and medical therapies for retinal disorders and treats patients with intraocular tumors. Park is also is the director of the Retina Division and director of the vitreoretinal fellowship program at UC Davis.
Park’s colleagues Paul Sieving, the Neil and MJ Kelly Presidential Chair in Vitreoretinal Science, Ala Moshiri, an associate professor of ophthalmology, and Glenn Yiu, associate professor of ophthalmology, also gave remarks.
Park’s research has focused on developing novel therapies for retinal disorders through translational and clinical research, including exploring the use of stem cells for retinal regenerative therapy.
Park was one of the first investigators in the U.S. to receive FDA-clearance to conduct NIH-funded clinical trials using stem cells for vision loss. She is the principal investigator for currently enrolling clinical trials investigating stem cell treatment for vision loss from retinal problems, central retinal vein occlusion, and retinitis pigmentosa.
The ceremony also included a video celebrating the accomplishments of Alan M. Roth, a former UC Davis faculty member who established the endowed chair in 2017. Roth was in attendance at the event.
“I am humbled and honored to be the first recipient of this endowed chair and would like to thank Dr. Roth for his generous contribution to the department,” Park said. “With the funds that become available with this endowed chair, I will be able to continue the research exploring stem cells in our bone marrow as a potential therapy for retinal regeneration.”
Park noted in her remarks that Roth was an important collaborator in the early phase of stem cell research in the Department of Ophthalmology. “His detailed analysis of the histology slides of animals that were treated with stem cells made it possible for us to get FDA clearance to conduct clinical trials to treat patients with the stem cell therapy,” Park said.
Roth joined the then-new Department of Ophthalmology in 1972 and went on to distinguish himself as a clinician, pathologist and teacher. Roth initiated Ophthalmic Pathology at UC Davis, helping to determine the causes of eye disease at the microscopic level.
Roth officially retired from UC Davis in 1997 but continued to work part-time, seeing patients and serving as a pathologist and teacher. His late wife, Barbara, a trained orthoptist, passed away in 2014.
In addition to the endowed chair, Roth established the Alan and Barbara Roth Ophthalmic Pathology Laboratory in the new UC Davis Eye Center facility.
The UC Davis Eye Center
The UC Davis Eye Center provides world-class eye care, pioneers collaborative vision research, and trains the next generation of specialists and investigators to become leaders in the Sacramento region and beyond. The Eye Center team aims to transform vision care and develop cures for blinding eye diseases, from cornea to cortex.