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Big Give Message from Dr. Harris

Michael Harris.
Join Dr. Michael Harris in Supporting Our Satellite Campus in Emeryville.

We invite you to learn why Dr. Michael G. Harris – the Godfather of Big Give and a member of our Hall of Fame – has decided to make a major gift to our new Emeryville Satellite Campus. Dr. Harris is Clinical Professor Emeritus and Senior Lecturer Emeritus at our school, where he has served as a faculty member for nearly 60 years! Read about his journey as a distinguished alum and influential educator at the Herbert Wertheim School of Optometry & Vision Science. We hope his story will inspire you.

My passion for cornea and contact lenses started with the first patient I saw in the contact lens clinic as a young student. She was referred to the clinic because she had failed a school vision screening. It turned out that she had the corneal abnormality known as keratoconus. Because of the irregular shape of her corneas, her vision could not be corrected with ordinary glasses that do anything better than the big “E” (20/200) on the standard vision chart.

In examining her corneas with the equipment available in the early 1960s, we discovered extremely distorted and irregular corneas, so we decided to try fitting her with contact lenses. The only contact lenses available at that time were the old hard (PMMA) contact lenses. Just by luck, the first trial contact lenses we placed on her eyes fit well and corrected her vision to near 20/20, normal vision.

When she read the bottom line on the chart, her parents thought she was cheating. Once they realized she was actually seeing clearly for the first time in her life and could recognize details of their faces, everyone in the exam room was in tears. The fact that these small pieces of plastic could improve a person’s life so dramatically inspired me to pursue graduate work in the cornea and contact lens field.

The week after I graduated from optometry school in 1965, I started graduate studies and teaching in the contact lens clinic. What an unbelievable experience! I worked with and learned from legends in the contact lens field. Imagine working with patients one day with Dr. Robert Mandel, the next day with Dr. Morton Sarver, and the following day with Dr. Robert Lester. They were so knowledgeable and generous with their talents that I soon became recognized as an expert in contact lenses as well.

Doing contact lens research under Dr. Mandell’s guidance honed my clinical research skills. Teaching contact lenses in lectures, labs, and clinics alongside Dr. Sarver opened my eyes to what a wonderful field contact lens optometry is. Teaching weekly alongside Dr. Lester, a true pioneer in the contact lens field, gave me valuable insight into the art of fitting contact lenses and patient care.

I truly learned at the feet of giants! Over nearly five decades of teaching in the clinic, it became my second home. There were days when I spent more time caring for patients and teaching students in the contact lens clinic than at home! I had the great fortune to teach thousands of promising optometry students the art and science of contact lenses. I also had the opportunity to teach in the contact lens clinic alongside my legendary idols and, later, with my former students, all of whom became lifelong friends.

I am delighted to share their legacy with future students and patients at the Dr. Michael G. Harris Cornea and Contact Lens Clinic at The Herbert Wertheim School of Optometry & Vision Science’s new Emeryville campus. My mentors and colleagues taught me the importance of excellence in patient care and teaching. I hope future faculty and students will build on this legacy.

I invite each of you to consider participating in naming opportunities at the new Emeryville campus. Whether it’s naming a room, a clinic, a scholarship, or contributing towards essential equipment, your involvement will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of optometry and will leave a lasting mark on generations to come.

– Michael G. Harris, OD, JD, MS, FAAO

Big Give Starts Tonight at 9PM!

We are embarking on an expansion of the Herbert Wertheim School of Optometry and Vision Science, establishing the foundation for the school’s next 100 years. Your involvement will make a significant impact. By associating your name with our new satellite campus in Emeryville, you will support a groundbreaking initiative and demonstrate your commitment to providing best-in-class eye care to children and their families, and to a new era of professional education and vision research.
Big Give