The Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh is losing a key figure. Jeffrey Gross, PhD, held several titles during his Pittsburgh tenure: the E. Ronald Salvitti Chair in Ophthalmology Research, Professor of Ophthalmology and Developmental Biology, Vice Chair and Director of Research, and Director of the Louis J. Fox Center for Vision Restoration. But he could not pass up the chance to be Chair of the Department of Molecular Biosciences at the University of Texas at Austin, where he worked before moving to Pittsburgh.
“I guess I didn’t make too many enemies as they wanted me back as Department Chair!” he said.
Dr. Gross will be missed. “We are happy and proud of Jeff Gross, but we will miss him just the same,” said Lawton Snyder, Chief Executive Officer of the Eye & Ear Foundation. “His Chair and research have been supported by many of our donors, and I know they will miss him as well. You cannot ask for a better partner in our efforts to grow the research. We have been very fortunate to have him here.”
Dr. José-Alain Sahel, Department of Ophthalmology Chair, echoes Snyder. “Working with Jeff on growing the Department, recruiting new talents, structuring a collegial climate conducive to collaborations, creative thinking, and personal development has been a joy,” he said. “Although we are very optimistic on finalizing the recruitment of an excellent candidate to replace him, I and I am sure all, will deeply miss him.”
Looking back at his seven years in Pittsburgh, Dr. Gross is proudest of the faculty. “The people we have hired are dedicated and creative scientists and the work they are doing is amazing,” he said. “They are also good people, and this is important as you want to build a culture of collaboration and respect for one another. Coupled to senior faculty who were already here and who have engaged with this group of new investigators, mentored them, and worked together to grow the Department – this is what I am most proud of. The future is very bright for this group.”
In his new position, Dr. Gross’s goals are similar. He wants to grow the department and build the same sense of community and culture of collaboration he experienced at Pitt. The broad biology department also has a teaching focus on undergraduates, which is something Dr. Gross is deeply passionate about.
“If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we need to both improve our science education and our ability to communicate facts in an understandable way to the public,” he said. “Science is real, and people need to have a fundamental understanding of the world around them. The responsibility here is shared, however, we as educators need to play an equal part and make sure we convey information in an understandable way.”
Dr. Gross has indeed made his mark in Pittsburgh. “If the goal really is to leave a position better off than when you started, you can say Jeff has met his goal,” Snyder said. “He has left the research department in good shape to move forward in the years to come.”
Do not count Dr. Gross out of Pittsburgh, as the avid baseball fan teased a possible return. “If the Pirates finally win the World Series, maybe I will move back!”