New chair aims to revolutionize our understanding of glaucoma

Part of the Dalhousie Difference series

- November 14, 2012

Dr. Balwantray C. Chauhan, speaking at the announcement event for the Mathers Chair. (Danny Abriel photo)
Dr. Balwantray C. Chauhan, speaking at the announcement event for the Mathers Chair. (Danny Abriel photo)

The official announcement of the Dr. R. Evatt and Rita Mathers Chair in Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences Research could not have come a more auspicious time, according to Alan Cruess.

Dr. Cruess, head of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences Research, was the master of ceremonies for the official celebration last week for the endowed chair and its holder, Dr. Balwantray C. Chauhan.
The reception, held in the Life Sciences Research Institute (LSRI) atrium, coincided with the construction of two new laboratories, on either side of the atrium, as part of an ACOA Atlantic Innovation Fund project of which Dr. Chauhan is a co-leader. These laboratories will further excel Dr. Chauhan’s revolutionary research in the visual sciences, particularly in understanding glaucoma.

“Your clinical research and your career as a professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at Dalhousie University has prepared you well to take on this challenge,” said Deputy Minister of Health Kevin McNamara, praising Dr. Chauhan.

Dr. Chauhan is one of the world’s top glaucoma researchers, making major advances in understanding and working to treat the age-related degenerative disease that is one of the leading causes of visual disability and blindness around the world.

Martha Crago, Dalhousie vice-president research, knows the impact of glaucoma personally, as her father suffered from the disease.

“The sort of work being done by this chair is a wonderful intersection between the research and the application for the benefits of people,” she said at the reception.

A generous donation

The chair is made possible thanks to the incredible generosity of the late Peggy St. George, whose visionary donation of $9 million made the chair a reality. St. George insisted on anonymity for the three separate donations that made up the total, but following her death in 2008, the terms of her estate allowed her to be named. The donation was part of Bold Ambitions: The Campaign for Dalhousie.

Following her wishes, the endowments were made in honour of her step-parents, Dr. R. Evatt and Rita Mathers. Tony Nichols, St. George’s nephew, attended the event on Wednesday to honour his aunt, and to “put name to context.” He noted that Dr. Mathers was “the leading ophthalmologist in the city” in his time.

Dr. Chauhan had never heard of the Mathers family when the chair was endowed, and says he enjoyed learning about “their fascinating history.” He arrived in Canada in 1989 and continues to be excited by the research opportunities here in the country.

“This is a superb place to do what we’re doing,” he said. “I’ve been really blessed to have probably the best clinical colleagues: the technical staff, the researchers and the students who really keep us on our toes.”

Dr. Chauhan and his team’s research will motor full speed ahead, immensely aided by St. George’s donation and the construction of two new laboratories in the LSRI.

“Great things in ophthalmology are being done here,” said McNamara.

This article is part of the Dalhousie Difference series, exploring what the power of philantrophy means to the university and introducing and showcasing some of the 50 innovative projects in development. Learn more at


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