Dedication Ceremony Held for Dr. Nasser Ibrahim Al-Rashid Orbital Vision Research Center

A dedication ceremony was held March 18 at the Dr. Nasser Ibrahim Al-Rashid Orbital Vision Research Center, formally welcoming the one-of-its-kind, interdisciplinary research center at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine.

Located in the Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Vision Research Center, the Al-Rashid Center is the first cure-based orbital research laboratory in the world, where basic science will be translated into clinical applications to transform the lives of patients with orbital tumors and traumatic optic nerve injuries.

The dedication was highlighted by a ribbon-cutting, which celebrated the culmination of a bond nearly three decades in the making between Al-Rashid and David T. Tse, M.D., the Director of the Dr. Nasser Ibrahim Al-Rashid Orbital Vision Research Center.

“The dedication of this magnificent orbital research center is the result of a fortuitous chance encounter, fortified by years of friendship and trust,” said Tse, who holds the Dr. Nasser Ibrahim Al-Rashid Chair in Ophthalmic Plastic, Orbital Surgery, and Oncology, in collaboration with Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Dr. Al-Rashid’s commitment to partner with Bascom Palmer on a journey of progress and scientific discovery not only will yield academic excellence and research breakthroughs but will also have a profound global effect on the quality of life for future generations of patients with orbital diseases.”

The laboratory and facility were made possible by a transformative $10 million gift from the Al-Rashid family to support the work of Tse.

Al-Rashid, who lost vision in one eye as a child, met Tse 27 years ago and credits him for preserving the sight in his other eye.

Through the years, they forged a strong connection, which led to Al-Rashid’s generous philanthropy. The hope is that the Center named for him will serve as an incubator for the next generation of thought leaders in orbital surgery, led by Tse.

“David Tse is not only a stellar physician-surgeon but a compassionate individual who suffers the weight of vision loss that his patients are afflicted by,” said Eduardo C. Alfonso, M.D., the Kathleen and Stanley J. Glaser Chair in Ophthalmology, Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology, and Director of Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. “But as we well know, a vision alone cannot change the world. It takes financial resources to fuel the research engine. It is with a deep sense of gratitude on behalf of the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and the numerous patients who will benefit from the work achieved in this remarkable Center that I acknowledge and thank the Al-Rashid family for this extraordinary gift.”

In honor of the dedication, Al-Rashid traveled from Dubai and was accompanied at the ceremony by two of his sons, Fahad, AB ’05, and Ibrahim, BBA ’06. He said his commitment stems from his belief in the University and Bascom Palmer’s passion for research and exceptional clinical care.

“That is why I am dedicated, with pleasure, to make sure this Center, at this University, will prove to the entire world, east and west, that this is where the treatments that don’t yet exist will emanate from,” said Dr. Al-Rashid. “That is my dream to see this happen.”

The mission of the Center is the investigation of molecular underpinnings of a broad spectrum of orbital diseases for which effective therapy remains elusive, and transforming the culture of biomedical research to hasten the discovery and implementation of new treatment and prevention strategies.

“The Center will assemble a multidisciplinary array of research scientists and clinicians who will collaborate with colleagues at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis to discover novel therapies for lethal orbital cancers and traumatic optic nerve injuries,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Dean of the Miller School of Medicine. “As a physician, I am pleased to see this type of innovation and commitment to providing state-of-the-art treatment.”

Over the past 25 years, the Al-Rashid family has donated close to half a billion dollars for humanitarian programs around the hemisphere — not only toward the outstanding physician-scientists at the Miller School but toward all humankind, since many of the scientific findings that emerge from Miller School laboratories are shared worldwide.

“The opening of the research center is an appropriate tribute to Al-Rashid’s philanthropy for humanity and affirms his commitment to enabling scientists to accelerate research efforts to find solutions for crippling clinical problems,” said Tse, who was joined by his wife, Jean, and their sons Brian and Jeffrey. “Dr. Al-Rashid’s name will forever be linked to vision research and for alleviating the despair of patients with orbital malignancies and blindness from orbital injuries.”

Al-Rashid established two endowed chairs in 2010, one to support Tse’s research in oncology in collaboration with Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, and his research in plastic and orbital surgery at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute; and the other to establish the Dr. Nasser Ibrahim Al-Rashid Chair in the Division of Hepatology and the UM Center for Liver Diseases, which is held by Eugene Schiff, M.D., Leonard Miller Professor of Medicine and the Director of the Hepatology Research Laboratory.

A few years later, the family made the $10 million gift to build the Dr. Nasser Ibrahim Al-Rashid Orbital Vision Research Center. The gift enabled not only the construction of the Center, but also the recruitment of leading scientists.

Additionally, that support established two endowments that will ensure scientific research is funded in perpetuity. Al-Rashid also recently committed an additional $2.5 million over the next five years.

Julio Frenk, President of the University of Miami, said Al-Rashid’s generosity and vision are helping to transform the future of education, discovery, and health care at UM.

“Dr. Rashid’s gift of $10 million to establish the Dr. Nasser Ibrahim Al-Rashid Orbital Vision Research Center not only provided funds for bricks and mortar, but also established two endowed research funds,” Frenk said. “These endowments allow the work of universities to continue in perpetuity. It is the most fundamental way of establishing a long-lasting legacy and enables the growth of our physicians here at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.”

Al-Rashid is the founder of Rashid Engineering in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Appointed by King Khaled as the consulting engineer to the Royal Court, he played a pivotal role in the country’s economic evolution and educational transformation, participating in close to 100 major construction projects in the Kingdom, including that of the largest eye hospital in the Middle East — the King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital.

Al-Rashid’s generosity has touched the lives of many around the globe. His gifts to education, health care, and social services include endowments in medical research and building of the largest children’s cancer center in the Middle East.

The family has also created a legacy at the University since four of Al-Rashid’s sons are University of Miami alumni. To deepen the lineage, in 2012, the University of Miami awarded Al-Rashid an honorary Doctor of Science degree.

Tse said Al-Rashid’s presence at the ceremony conveyed a special meaning to the occasion, calling him a person of “a rare blend of intelligence, experience, imagination, and uncommon wisdom.”

He presented Al-Rashid with a small replica of the plaque hanging in the Dr. Nasser Ibrahim Al-Rashid Orbital Vision Research Center, recognizing his contribution to humanity.

“Dr. Al-Rashid, you are loved and revered here,” said Tse. “This Center is now your new home, your new address. You are a partner with us on the journey of scientific discovery.”

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