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University of Iowa Foundation Release


June 7, 2007

Gift Endows UI Ophthalmology Professorship; James Folk Appointed

University of Iowa graduates Donald H. Beisner, M.D., and Judith A. Beisner of Springfield, Mo., have established a permanently endowed professorship in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. The Beisners' gift of $1 million, made to the UI Foundation, creates the Judith (Gardner) and Donald H. Beisner, M.D., Professorship for Vitreoretinal Diseases and Surgery.

James C. Folk, M.D., a professor in the department, will be formally appointed to the professorship at a ceremony on June 15. The Beisner Professorship will exist in perpetuity, supporting the research of a distinguished faculty member in the UI ophthalmology department specializing in research and medical and surgical treatment of vitreoretinal diseases such as retinal detachments, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration.

Jean E. Robillard, UI vice president for medical affairs and dean of the UI Carver College of Medicine, said the Beisner Professorship will advance the UI's already stellar reputation in vitreoretinal research and treatment.

"With the resources provided by the Beisner Professorship, Dr. Folk, who is recognized as an international leader in his field, will be able to advance his research and patient care even beyond the outstanding work he's already accomplished," Robillard said. "The Beisners have been good friends of our college for many years, and our gratitude for their generosity knows no bounds."

Donald Beisner grew up in Cedar Falls, Iowa. After attending Iowa State University for three years, majoring in chemical engineering, he graduated from the UI College of Medicine in 1964 and interned at Los Angeles County General Hospital. From 1965 to 1967 he served as a lieutenant in the Navy Medical Corps -- one year in Vietnam and one year at the Long Beach Naval Hospital. He returned to the UI to complete an ophthalmology residency, earning a master's degree in 1970. Beisner retired in 2000 from his surgical practice at the Missouri Eye Institute in Springfield. Judith Beisner, a native of Waterloo, Iowa, received her bachelor's degree in education from the UI in 1961 and has served in leadership positions in numerous community and philanthropic organizations.

James Folk joined the UI faculty in 1982 upon completion of his UI fellowship in vitreoretinal diseases. He earned his medical degree from Thomas Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, and his bachelor's degree from Pennsylvania State University. He completed his ophthalmology residency at Eye and Ear Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pa.

The Beisners previously established the Beisner Scholar Awards for outstanding students in the UI Carver College of Medicine; the couple's estate plans will allow the college to increase these to eight annual awards. The couple has also funded the renovation of three lecture halls in the UI's Bowen Science Building, naming them after three of Dr. Beisner's ophthalmology mentors and teachers.

The UI Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences is ranked sixth by U.S.News & World Report in the magazine's 2006 "Best Hospitals" rankings. The department is renowned for its molecular ophthalmology research and is a leader in the fields of age-related macular degeneration and genetic ophthalmologic diseases. For more information about the department, visit its web site at

The UI acknowledges the UI Foundation as the preferred channel for private contributions that benefit all areas of the university. For more information about the UI Foundation, visit its web site at

STORY SOURCE: UI Foundation, P.O. Box 4550, Iowa City, Iowa 52244-4550

CONTACT: Tom DePrenger, executive director of development, major gifts, UI Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics, 319-335-3305,; Writer: Nic Arp.

PHOTOS: A high-resolution image of Judith and Dr. Donald Beisner is available:

A web-quality image also is available: