NEWS | April 24, 2012

UC Davis ophthalmologist recognized for establishing eye-banking and tissue-donation services


Mark J. Mannis, an international authority on corneal transplantation and external diseases of the eye, will receive the 2011-12 Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award from the UC Davis Academic Senate at a reception on May 2.

Mark Mannis, M.D. Mark Mannis, M.D.

The award is among the highest honors for UC Davis faculty. Bestowed annually, it recognizes expertise in teaching, research and professional competence that extends beyond the university campus into local, statewide, national and international public arenas.

Mannis is recognized for his 30-year commitment to public service in establishing eye-banking and tissue-donation services and medical education in the United States and throughout the world, especially in Latin America. His efforts to increase the number of high-quality ocular tissues available for transplant, as well as the number of ophthalmologists and technicians trained in the latest corneal transplant and eye-banking methodologies, have enabled tens of thousands of individuals with blinding eye diseases around the globe to receive the gift of sight.

In 1980, Mannis and UC Davis Medical Center assumed leadership of a fledgling eye bank founded by the Lions Club, and grew its services over the years into a full-service nonprofit agency that today is known as Sierra Donor Services. The organization operates three regional offices to facilitate organ and tissue donations in Northern California and Nevada. It offers donated eye, skin, cardiovascular, cartilage and musculoskeletal tissues as well as organs for transplant. In 2012, Sierra Donor Services supplies nearly 95 percent of the eye tissues needed for corneal transplant surgery by hospitals and clinics in the region, and in 2012 led the nation in the number of organs recovered. Mannis, who has served as ocular medical director for the eye bank for more than 30 years, aims to increase the number of tissue donations to meet all local needs, as well as those of international eye banks, where the need is greatest.

Mannis also has worked for the past 15 years to expand eye-bank networks in Latin America, where 23 countries, including Mexico and Argentina, have no effective eye and tissue-banking services. As a recent president of the Pan American Association of Eye Banks and current president of the Pan-American Association of Ophthalmology, he has directed and actively participated in the comprehensive training of corneal transplant teams in Central and South America. His goal is to empower physicians and technicians to create and sustain high-quality eye banking services that are compatible with the political, religious and cultural norms of their native countries so they do not have to rely on tissues imported from the U.S. Since 2002, he has taught hundreds of physicians and technicians, and his efforts also have led to new eye-banking services in Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil.

For his contributions to clinical ophthalmic science, eye banking and Latin American ophthalmology, he received the Moacyr Alvaro Gold Medal from the Federal University of Sao Paulo and was awarded the title of Doctor Honoris Causa by the National University of San Marcos in Lima, Peru.

UC Davis Health System is improving lives and transforming health care by providing excellent patient care, conducting groundbreaking research, fostering innovative, interprofessional education, and creating dynamic, productive partnerships with the community. The academic health system includes one of the country's best medical schools, a 631-bed acute-care teaching hospital, an 800-member physician's practice group and the new Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing. It is home to a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, an international neurodevelopmental institute, a stem cell institute and a comprehensive children's hospital. Other nationally prominent centers focus on advancing telemedicine, improving vascular care, eliminating health disparities and translating research findings into new treatments for patients. Together, they make UC Davis a hub of innovation that is transforming health for all. For more information, visit


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