University of Nebraska Medical Center


Due to COVID, a drive-by 100th birthday party was held for Dr. Stanley Truhlsen in 2020.

The Omaha Medical College was chartered in 1869, then later founded in 1881, in part by Dr. Harold Gifford Sr. The college became the University of Nebraska College of Medicine in 1902. Dr. Gifford chaired the Department of Ophthalmology and Otology for more than a quarter of a century, from 1898 to 1924. Under his leadership, the department's teaching evolved from a one-hour lecture in ophthalmology each semester for senior students to a course that consisted of clinical lectures, lecture demonstrations, and practical work.

Our ophthalmology residency program was officially recognized in 1946 and was accredited in 1959. During this period, the eye clinic was located in three small rooms with minimal equipment and the program was very informal.

In the mid 1950s, a separate eye clinic was established at the Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital. This remains an integral part of the ophthalmology residency-training program today.

Dr. Harold Gifford Jr. became chairman of the department in 1964. He oversaw dramatic changes in the department during his six-year tenure. His weekly pathology conferences were favorites among the students and residents.

During the 1960s, the department moved to the University Hospital Building. This new space included five exam rooms, a minor surgery room, visual field rooms, a photography room, a pathology laboratory, a reception room, and a residents' office.

The department's expansion continued in 1970 with the building and dedication of the Nebraska Lions Eye Institute. This facility, which was adjacent to the eye clinic in the University Hospital, was constructed to support three major purposes: clinical practice, research and teaching. Dr. Raymond Records was appointed Professor and Chairman of the Ophthalmology Department.

In 1989, the Department of Ophthalmology was relocated again. Dr. Stanley Truhlsen, a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Nebraska College of Medicine in 1944, became interim chairman of the department. The new building, at 40th and Dewey Streets, housed the clinical portion of the department, including 12 patient exam rooms, four diagnostic testing areas, a minor surgery room, a photography lab, a classroom, and administrative offices.

Dr. Michael Yablonski served as departmental chairman from 1990 to 2000. Under his leadership several significant events occurred: the Gifford Laboratory of Ophthalmology was dedicated in April 1993; the Harold Gifford Jr. Lecture Series was established; the Eye Specialties Building increased in size to include eight additional administrative offices and space for the expanding faculty and supporting personnel in 1995; and the Lions Eye Research Laboratories were established on the first floor of the Eye Specialties Building with the help of generous funding from the Lions Club of Nebraska.

In 2001, Dr. Truhlsen became president of the Ophthalmology Division of the University of Nebraska Foundation. As a result of a generous gift from Dr. Truhlsen, the department was provided additional space for research in the Durham Research Center, which was completed in 2003. These impressive laboratories in this state-of-the-art facility will enable the department to expand its research endeavors by attracting research faculty who will conduct pioneering investigations with competitive, national funding.

In 2005, the Department of Ophthalmology became the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. Until 2009 the department and clinic continued under the direction of Professor and Chairman Dr. Carl Camras, a world-renowned researcher and international expert in the field of glaucoma. Following the loss of Dr. Camras, Dr. Thomas W. Hejkal was named interim and subsequently Department Chairman in 2010. The department's vision for the future included becoming an eye institute, to provide the latest in diagnostic capability for our community or clinical trials infrastructure for our colleagues, and technical training in state-of-the-art ophthalmology and ocular surgery.

In 2013, Dr. Quan Dong Nguyen was named the McGaw Endowed Chair in Ophthalmology, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and Director of the Stanley M. Truhlsen Eye Institute.

On May 22, 2013, the grand opening of The Stanley M. Truhlsen Eye Institute was held and The Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences was moved to its new home at 3902 Leavenworth St.

Dr. James W. Gigantelli was named Interim Chairman and Director of the Truhlsen Eye Institute in 2016.

In 2019, Dr. Ronald Krueger joined UNMC as the McGaw Professor and Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at UNMC and the Director of the Truhlsen Eye Institute.

Dr. Truhlsen turned 100 with a drive-by birthday celebration in front of the Stanley M. Truhlsen Eye Institute on Nov. 13, 2020. He was greeted by banners and well-wishers and received a giant card and cupcakes.

In May 2023, the Truhlsen Eye Institute celebrated its 10th anniversary of the building. And in June, a historical display, dedicated to Dr. Truhlsen, opened in the first floor lobby.