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In the spring of 2011, the Wills Vision Research Center at Jefferson was established to foster collaborations between a core group of NEI-funded vision scientists at Jefferson and clinicians at Wills Eye Institute, which serves as the home of Jefferson’s Department of Ophthalmology. The new Vision Research Center, co-founded by Drs. Sue Menko and Julia Haller, quickly grew across the Jefferson and Wills communities, then extended both regionally and nationally.

The inaugural retreat of the center, held in June 2011, hosted more than 100 attendees, including clinicians, researchers, and representatives from the pharmaceutical industry. This retreat generated great energy and provided a venue for the initiation of new collaborations, leading to the creation of Special Interest Groups in vision research, small groups of scientists and clinicians that bring diverse backgrounds but similar interests to their discussions. The Special Interest Groups have resulted in collaborations with great promise of leading to grant funding and new discoveries for improving vision health on a global scale.