University of Houston College of Optometry (UHCO) alumnus Dr. Doug Barnes and his wife, Molly, have made a $5 million pledge to the University of Houston. The gift will be submitted for state matching funds through the Texas Research Incentive Program (TRIP). The first two floors of the new Health and Biomedical Sciences Building (HBSB) at UH will be named the Molly and Doug Barnes Vision Institute in their honor.
Named a distinguished alumnus at UH this year, Doug Barnes received his Doctor of Optometry degree in 1975 after earning a bachelor's in business from Western Kentucky University in 1970. Combining his business acumen with his professional qualifications as an optometrist, Barnes founded EyeMart Express in 1990, the first value superstore company with the ability to fill eyeglass prescriptions in a day.
The business has grown to 135 locations in 32 states, stretching across the country from Alaska to Maine, with more than 300 optometrists practicing in the EyeMart Express network. They perform more than one million eye exams and sell two million pairs of prescription eyeglasses annually, with revenues expected in excess of $250 million this year. Both Molly and Doug Barnes stress that this gift to UH would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of all the people involved in the EyeMart Express family.
"Each of the EyeMart Express offices is unique, with the optometrist choosing the mode of practice," said Earl Smith, dean of UHCO. "It's a remarkable organization that reflects the ingenuity and creativity of its founder, Doug Barnes. He is truly committed to our profession, and he is arguably our college's most successful graduate."
In addition to studying at UHCO during the same time period, both Smith and Barnes pay homage to a long time faculty member, Troy Fannin, who played a key role in getting each of them into the college. Barnes says Fannin has been and continues to be an inspiration to many optometrists.
"Doug and Molly Barnes not only honor us every day with their accomplishments in the field of optometry, but now they also honor the University of Houston with an extraordinary act of philanthropy," Smith said. "The Barnes' gift makes possible a shared vision for the future of optometry and optometric education."
By investing in the future of the profession, this planned expansion will provide novel educational opportunities for the students and innovative facilities for research, including an ambulatory surgery center and laser refractive center on the ground floor and classroom space, a learning center and clinical research labs on the second floor. The heart of the Molly and Doug Barnes Vision Institute will be the state-of-the art ambulatory surgery center, the first of its kind within an optometry school and encompassing 16,000 square feet. It will provide new clinical services for patients, interprofessional educational experiences for students and postgraduate training opportunities for practicing optometrists. The new facility also will include well-equipped laboratories for patient-based research, as well as technically advanced classrooms and a large student commons area for interactive learning.