A New Space and A New Chapter for the Harkness Eye Institute

In 2023, Columbia University Irving Medical Center's Department of Ophthalmology is ushering in a new era as it prepares to bid farewell to the historic Harkness Eye Institute building, embarking on a journey to reimagine its future. This transformative project, slated for completion by 2027, represents a significant step forward in the department's 155-year history.

Originally constructed in 1933, the Harkness Eye Institute was made possible through the generosity of philanthropist Edward S. Harkness. Now, recognizing the need for expansion and modernization, the decision has been made to embark on a profound transformation, with the new structure designed by the esteemed healthcare architectural firm Ballinger. This new facility will not only accommodate ophthalmology but also house the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The 10th floor of the new building will be entirely dedicated to ophthalmology, doubling the department's current space. Dedicated eye operating rooms will be located in the building.

Dr. G.A. (Jack) Cioffi, Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology, envisions a facility designed for the future: "We are building for the next generation, while also preserving the legacy of the Harkness Eye Institute."

The department's research enterprise has already moved to its new home, a modern 12,000 square foot laboratory complex in the Hammer Health Sciences Center. This strategic relocation aims to foster collaboration and innovation among researchers in an open floor plan designed to encourage interaction.

Dr. Xin Zhang, who led the move, emphasized the benefits of the new setup: "Science thrives on synergy and cooperation, and this new environment will stimulate research advancements."

The department also recently relocated its faculty, administrative, and educational offices to the 18th floor of the Presbyterian Hospital building. Spanning 10,500 square feet, this space accommodates 80 faculty members and staff and includes a state-of-the-art ophthalmology education lab. The floor has undergone a complete gut renovation and also showcases the rich history of the Eye Institute, featuring historic artifacts and exhibits that pay homage to its legacy.

During construction, clinical operations have been temporarily moved to remodeled sites on the CUIMC campus. These sites offer advanced equipment and a patient-centered environment.

For the ColumbiaDoctors ophthalmology faculty practice, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital has renovated over 7,000 square feet of clinical space on the third floor of the Vanderbilt Clinic. This new space includes 21 exam rooms, clinical research facilities, and diagnostic areas. The resident clinic has also moved to newly renovated space on the fourth floor of Vanderbilt, with both spaces opening in January 2023.

As Columbia University's Department of Ophthalmology embarks on this transformative journey, it does so with a clear vision of creating a brighter, more innovative future for eye care, research, and patient well-being, ensuring that the legacy of the Harkness Eye Institute lives on in a new era of excellence, celebrated on the 19th floor of the Presbyterian building.