A Pioneer for Vision Care has a Passion for Giving

Dr. E. Ron Salvitti’s curiosity fuels his innovation. As a result, he has made his mark in the field of ophthalmology. His latest contribution of $1.5 million makes his total giving to the Eye & Ear Foundation campaign a generous $5 million. His latest donation will result in the naming of the surgical training lab, the E. Ronald Salvitti, MD Surgical Training Lab, in the new Vision Institute at the UPMC Mercy Pavilion.                                      

Upon finishing medical school, Dr. Salvitti worked for six years in family practice. His curiosity, however, remained in the field of ophthalmology, as his father was only partially sighted and barely legal to drive.

His second year of residency, Dr. Salvitti was in the operating room when he noticed a window was covered. He was told that there was new, special technology that was not meant to be seen by anyone who was not trained to use it. Naturally, this whet Dr. Salvitti’s curiosity. He paid his own way to New York to learn how to do phacoemulsification cataract surgery.

At the time, this technology was rudimentary and difficult to use. This spurred Dr. Salvitti – along with his colleagues – to develop improvements and help push changes in technology to make it more user-friendly and safer for patients. Along the way, he designed intraocular lenses for cataract surgery that have been widely used.

The founder and medical director of Southwestern Pennsylvania Eye Center has also been supportive of the Departments of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology at the University of Pittsburgh. After a small lesion was removed surgically, Dr. Salvitti experienced firsthand the benefits of minimally invasive surgery. This led him to support the Pioneers in Skull Base Surgery Chair.

Dr. Salvitti has helped advance care for people with cataracts, but not much has been done for macular degeneration. “We need to find better solutions,” he said. This motivated him to lend his name to ophthalmology Chairs to advance research: the E. Ronald Salvitti Endowed Chair and the Jennifer Salvitti Davis Chair.

“Ron Salvitti’s support is transformative,” said Dr. José-Alain Sahel, Ophthalmology Chair at Pitt. “I met him the first day I visited Pittsburgh and immediately understood that his commitment to finding solutions for age-related macular degeneration is exceptional. Ever since, I have been constantly impressed by his commitment to support our Department, not only in terms of numbers, but also his deep interest in the science and care conducted here. Moreover, spending time with him and his family, especially his daughter Jennifer, is inspiring as the trust and values they share with us are truly exemplary.”

Dr. Salvitti’s gift to the new Vision Institute is in support of Dr. Sahel. “Because of his efforts, I thought I would make a major gift to the Eye & Ear Foundation to support him, and the ongoing research in macular degeneration,” he said.

Picture: Dr. Salvitti during recent visit to the department of Ophthalmology to see the imaging equipment he helped the group purchase with one of his donations. Ethan Rossi is in front, Michael Atlan from Paris is on the left, and Jay Chhablani  (retinal specialist) is in the back.