Life-long partnership lives on through research

The Marcel and Louise Brunette Chair in Ophthalmology will serve as a catalyst to expand the research focus and capacity at the Ivey Eye Institute

Marcel and Louise Brunette were partners for life. They are remembered as a quiet, hard-working, down-to-earth couple, who often exhibited their love, respect and admiration for each other through the smallest of touches and the widest smiles.

St. Joseph’s Health Care London played an important role in their lives for decades beginning in the early 1970s when Marcel spent a year in the hospital in critical condition. Years later the Brunettes would receive care from various programs at the Hospital. And it was because of this care that the Brunettes left their estate to St. Joseph’s.

Their legacy donation would create an opportunity for a collaboration between the ophthalmologists in the Ivey Eye Institute, St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation and Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry ultimately creating the Marcel and Louise Brunette Chair in Ophthalmology.

The possibility for this endowed chair first occurred to St. Joseph’s ophthalmologist and eye surgeon Dr. John Gonder more than 20 years ago. He credits Kim Spriet as the spark for the idea.

“She proposed the Run for Retina, which, over time has supported capital needs for the Ivey Eye Institute, and I thought how important a research chair would be to the future of the Institute and how we could create it,” he says.

Nearly two decades later, Dr. Gonder, with the assistance of other ophthalmologists in clinical research, were able to provide seed funding for the Chair.

That’s when Dr. John Yoo, Dean, Western University's Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry joined the partnership and together with leaders at Western matched the donation from the Brunettes and seed funding from the ophthalmologists creating the $5 million endowed research chair.

“This is an incredible collaboration between a loyal donor couple, a physician group, hospital administrators, the Foundation and the University. It has created an tremendous level of support to advance research, scholarship and education and benefit the patients we serve,” says Dr. Yoo. “We are incredibly proud of and grateful for this partnership.”

The Ivey Eye Institute is a flagship program at St. Joseph’s with a long history of clinical and research excellence. But research needs to be nurtured and supported for any results to make an impact on patient care.  

“Research leads to improvement in care, and it gives us the space to ask questions, find answers to difficult clinical questions, and test ideas and concepts before we can apply them to patient care,” says Dr. Gonder. “A Chair of this kind is critical and serves as a catalyst for this work.”

Dr. Cindy Hutnik in a research lab
Dr. Cindy Hutnik, Chair/Chief, Ophthalmology is an award-winning researcher and academic and the inaugural Marcel and Louise Brunette Chair in Ophthalmology.

Dr. Cindy Hutnik, Chair/Chief of the Department of Ophthalmology has been appointed the inaugural Marcel and Louise Brunette Chair in Ophthalmology. A clinician-researcher and award-winning professor, Dr. Hutnik has a well-established research program delivering strong clinical results, and is known internationally as a clinical role model and leader. Funding will be used to recruit new research talent expanding the program.

During their lives, the Brunettes had a simple wish - they wanted their estate to benefit others. Through the creation of this research Chair, their legacy will enrich people’s lives for decades to come.

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