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On November 8, 1973, the Duke Eye Center (now called the Wadsworth Eye Center) was opened and dedicated. The $3.7 million project was the result of more than eight years of planning. Prior to its construction, patients with serious or unusual eye diseases often had to be referred to eye centers in distant places like New York, Baltimore, or Miami.
The three-story structure built in 1973 contained a 43-bed inpatient unit, operating rooms, a 22,000-square-foot outpatient clinic and one complete floor of research laboratories. It was built from funds received from individuals, foundations, and other private sources. The fact that no government funds or tax money was used on the project was a big source of pride for Duke.
Approximately ten years later, on April 22, 1983, the Duke Eye Center was dedicated as the Wadsworth Building to honor the man who helped the center become a reality. The day after the dedication, Intercom published a feature article in which they cited Wadsworth as “the man behind it all.” Dr. Joseph A. Wadsworth came to Duke in 1965 to establish and chair the Department of Ophthalmology. He recounted “shortly after I got here the Trustees gave me the go-ahead to see if it was feasible. They also allotted me a plot of land where I could put it if I could do it. So then I went to work trying to get the money.”
The Duke Eye Center was the first of its kind in this region. As we celebrate 50 years of Ophthalmology at Duke this year, the building of the center is one important milestone to remember.