Shared Leadership of The Eye Institute

The Pacific Vision Foundation (PVF) was established in 1977 to raise financial support for the Department of Ophthalmology at the California Pacific Medical Center. Most funding comes from grateful patients of the doctors who have cared for them. During the most recent decade, the PVF Board of Directors have been developing plans to establish an Eye Institute, a collaborative venture with the California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC), Lions Eye Foundation, Lions Eye Clinic, physicians in practice, community clinics, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. One year ago, Michael Mahoney was retained as CEO of PVF. He shares leadership responsibility with Dr. Kevin Denny, Chair of the Ophthalmology Department at CPMC in the development of The Eye Institute.

The two of them sat down to talk with Horizon about the status of developing the Eye Institute.


What do you feel are the most significant accomplishments so far in establishing The Eye Institute?


MM:  Two things: first, we are close to completing Phase I of the construction project at 711 Van Ness, and, by the end of August, the entire 3rd floor will be filled with physicians’ practices. Secondly, we are creating a common alignment about our organizational structure and direction with our partners.


KD:  Said another way, we now have the belief that the leadership and team are in place to actually make this Eye Institute happen. It has been an idea for so long that it needed to transition to reality, and the reality has now arrived! There is still much more to do, but we are on the road.

Another accomplishment that I wish to highlight is our grit and perseverance.It has been striking to me how a project like this moves forward concurrently on many separate, yet interdependent, fronts. It’s really complicated, but because we believe in this project, and have been willing to do the work, we are managing the complexity with some success.


What are the primary goals for the next twelve months?


KD: There are five primary goals on my list:
1. Transition PVF from being a fine but quiet organization supporting the CPMC Ophthalmology Department to become a more widely recognized player on the San Francisco non-profit scene; 2. Build a Board of Directors that fully reflects the dynamism of the Bay Area; 3. Secure the funding to accomplish all of our goals; 4. Continue to create a network around the Bay Area so we can fulfill the mission to expand access to first class eye care, regardless of a patient’s financial status; and 5. Put the Department’s Residency Training Program on a sustainable path where volunteer faculty contributions are better valued and recognized.


MM: Kevin’s fourth point is also on my list. Said another way: expand our opportunity to work with community-based clinics in outlying areas to ensure the development of a safety net in ophthalmological care. My other primary goals are: 1. Complete the business plan; 2. Start construction of the Ambulatory Surgery Center (ASC) in partnership with physicians and other organizations; 3. Strengthen The Eye Institute’s identity; 4. Continue recruitment of ophthalmologists for the remaining office spaces in the building; and 5. Expand research capabilities in partnership with Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute.


Would you elaborate on what is meant by “The Eye Institute is a game-changing entrepreneurial concept in health services”?


MM: We are developing a business model with sufficient earned and contributed income to enable The Eye Institute to ensure that the Residency Program remains tops in the country and that patients will have access to care regardless of their socio-economic status.


KD: We are incredibly fortunate that we live and work in such a dynamic, innovative, ideas-driven community. It is timely, and appropriate, for us to adapt that successful energy in how we–the medical industry–delivers care. This is not to say that we haven’t had incredible examples of thought leaders in ophthalmology and related areas, such as Drs. Bruce Spivey, Arthur Jampolsky, Bill Stewart, and Alan Scott. As we are on the frontier of this updated business model, it would be wonderful if a device, a concept, a way of working with one another would generate an income stream to support our charitable work.


Would you define the intended scope beyond the soon-to-open facility at 711 Van Ness Avenue?


KD: The facility at 711 Van Ness will be the essential center, the hub of the wheel, that enables us to create a system that supports our community and our partners in the delivery of ophthalmological care. We are expanding our partnership beyond the strong traditional one with CPMC and Lions Eye Foundation to include affiliated doctors distributed throughout Northern California. We see the appeal of a cohesive system, and are hoping The Eye Institute can be a collaborative force where we can be stronger together than we are separately. We want to be the go-to Center of Excellence in Ophthalmic Care and leverage our historic prestige to best possible advantage.


MM: To expand on Kevin’s wheel imagery, The Eye Institute, based at 711, will radiate, reaching into all surrounding areas. There will be a benefit in both directions when community clinics and doctors all over the region can say, ‘…affiliated with The Eye Institute.’ It will be a classic case of `the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.’


Please explain why this matters to the average citizen in the Bay Area?


MM: Access to ophthalmic speciality care is of crucial importance to our society, especially given that it is projected that visual impairment and blindness will double in the U.S. in the next thirty-five years, largely due to our aging population. The Eye Institute and a network of providers is preparing to respond to this increasing need, knowing that many instances of visual impairment and blindness are preventable.


KD: The service delivery model of The Eye Institute will be a win for patients because of prompt consultation, excellent coordination, access to state of the art equipment, and a cutting edge ambulatory surgery center.


What is the status of renovations at 711 Van Ness?


MM: We have successfully completed the transformation of the building from a commercial to a medical-use facility. As an example, the third floor used to have 2 sinks and now there are 30, it used to have 2 bathrooms and now there are 6. We’ve increased energy efficiency, and the lobby is currently being renovated.


KD: Some doctors have been practicing in the building for a few months in transition spaces. In August, they will move into newly built offices on the 3rd Floor, and others of us who are also core clinical faculty will be moving our practices there. The Lions Eye Clinic, the Ophthalmic Diagnostic Center and the Conference Center will be moving from CPMC into newly renovated spaces on the 2nd Floor in the fall.


What will be the role of PVF relative to The Eye Institute?


KD: The mission of PVF has always been to support the Department of Ophthalmology at CPMC, and it is a remarkable gift from those who had the foresight to create it 40 years ago. While PVF leaders have catalyzed the effort to develop The Eye Institute, the transition will be that leaders of the Ophthalmology Department will increasingly set the goals and direction. PVF will continue its historic support role with enhanced capacity.


MM: I agree with Kevin. The role of PVF will be as the fundraising arm of The Eye Institute. And The Eye Institute will probably have its own leadership group, ideally headed by an ophthalmologist.


With the $19 million purchase of the building, and $9.8 million being spent on this round of renovations, how much more money is needed from the philanthropic community to accomplish the goals of The Eye Institute?


MM: We have a long-term goal of raising a $50 million endowment.


KD: That endowment will be needed if we are to remain an aspirational organization. We have to continue to get the brightest, most-energized doctors and support staff who can both do the work of today, AND come up with the ideas that change tomorrow. The CPMC Department of Ophthalmology tradition is to be, despite our small size, among the best anywhere in the world. The goal is to develop the next generation of super stars.


What is your leadership role relative to each other?


KD: I was on the search committee to identify the first Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of The Eye Institute, and we knew we needed to find a strong, experienced executive to create the foundation of a preeminent eye institute. Michael Mahoney, as a candidate, impressed me with his ability to connect with people. He understood that building an organization is less about the numbers and more about the interactions of the people involved. Michael’s nature, and his experience as the CEO of a safety-net hospital, informed his deep understanding of all sectors of the community.

Now, through countless discussions and problem-solving sessions, I am very pleased that Michael is every bit the
person I could have hoped for as a partner in this project. As a relatively new Department Chair, it’s really helpful to have a seasoned colleague to work with as we navigate this uncharted terrain.


MM: Thank you, Kevin, the feeling is mutual. I believe that you are the perfect person to be the department chair at this time because you are willing to roll up your sleeves and do the necessary work to establish The Eye Institute. You are a bridge-builder, and your leadership is inspirational.


Thank you both for your time and your leadership.