Henry Ford Health Receives $2M Philanthropic Gift from A.A. Van Elslander Foundation

August 1, 2022
Philip Hessburg MD

Gift will establish endowed chair, support ophthalmic research at Henry Ford.

DETROIT (Aug. 1, 2022) – Henry Ford Health has received a $2 million gift from the A.A. Van Elslander Foundation to establish the Philip C. Hessburg, M.D. – Art Van Elslander Chair in Ophthalmic Research, which will constitute a permanent endowment fund to support the educational research initiatives at Henry Ford Health by the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology (DIO)

“This is a remarkable gift and I can think of no better way to celebrate Dr. Hessburg’s career and legacy,” said Mary Jane Vogt, Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer at Henry Ford Health. “We are profoundly grateful to the A.A. Van Elslander Foundation for their leadership in support of growth and innovation that drives progress for Henry Ford’s elite ophthalmology program. Creating this endowed chair ensures that this will continue for generations to come.”

Dr. Philip Hessburg is medical director of the DIO, which he co-founded in 1972. The DIO merged with Henry Ford Health in 2012 and now serves as the research education arm of Henry Ford’s Department of Ophthalmology. In recognition of his exemplary lifetime contributions to ophthalmology medicine and research, Dr. Hessburg has been named the inaugural Chairholder of the Philip C. Hessburg, M.D. – Art Van Elslander Chair in Ophthalmic Research.

“This generous gift from the A.A. Van Elslander Foundation will play a significant role in our relentless pursuit to help those who are visually impaired maintain their independence while living a satisfying and productive life,” said Dr. Hessburg. "One of these efforts is our DIO support groups, which are low-tech and can improve our patients’ lives. At the other end of DIO efforts is the very high-tech approach to artificial vision through nano-electronics. These devices implanted in the eye or the brain may restore some level of useful vision to those who are fully blind.”

The DIO has held biennialresearch congresses on this subject called The Eye and the Chip since 2000, and will again in 2023. In alternate years, the DIO mounts a separate global research congress known as The Eye, the Brain and the Auto. This gathering, to be held again in October 2022, studies the roles that vision and cognition play in driving. Since 2018, these research congresses have also studied the role that autonomous mobility will soon play in healthcare.

Each of these research congresses attract to Detroit dozens of the world’s leading scientists in their respective areas of study. They are widely attended by clinicians, scientists and others from ophthalmic, automotive and related disciplines.

“A cornerstone of the A.A. Van Elslander Foundation is supporting medical research to help people with impaired eyesight,” said Debra Van Elslander, foundation board member and daughter of Mr. Van Elslander. “Our father had great respect for Dr. Hessburg and his dedication to the use of technology for improving vision; establishing this endowed chair honors that legacy and ensures future generations will benefit from advancements in ophthalmic research.”

The A.A. Van Elslander Foundation was endowed by the late Art Van Elslander, one of Michigan’s most prominent and respected businessmen and philanthropists. Mr. Van Elslander passed away in 2018, leaving a tremendous legacy of philanthropy. The A.A. Van Elslander Foundation’s philanthropic agenda is directed by what was Mr. Van Elslander’s desire to provide support to Michigan–based charities benefiting children, health and human services.

As one of the largest ophthalmology practices in the United States, the Department of Ophthalmology at Henry Ford treats more than 55,000 patients per year at 12 locations throughout southeast Michigan.

To learn more about eye care and ophthalmology research at Henry Ford Health, visit henryford.com/eye


MEDIA CONTACT: Jeff Adkins / 586.307.2027 / jadkins6@hfhs.org


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