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Donor Story

"The key is creating a legacy at a quality institution that has a high level of integrity, and I think there is opportunity for people to do very nice things for their family here at UCLA."
~ Dr. Bronwyn Bateman

A Legacy for Loved Ones

As a young resident at the UCLA Stein Eye Institute, Dr. Bronwyn Bateman was in the early stages of a brilliant career when tragedy struck. Her husband, Roderick K. Smith, an orthopedic resident at UCLA, was diagnosed with mesothelioma, an asbestos-related cancer, and passed away after an 11-month battle with the disease.

This could have derailed her career, but her Stein Eye advisor, Dr. Bradley Straatsma, made sure Bronwyn stayed on track. "He called me in," Bronwyn recalls, "and asked what I wanted to do with my life, and I said I didn't know. He suggested ophthalmic genetics. This was before DNA was harnessed to identify gene defects in hereditary diseases." Bronwyn took the Medical Boards in both Ophthalmology and Medical Genetics/Clinical Genetics. "I was able to have one foot in ophthalmology and one foot in medical genetics," she explains, "Looking back, the professional opportunities offered by Dr. Straatsma, Founding Director of the Stein Eye Institute and of the department of Ophthalmology, and Dr. Mondino, Director of the Stein Eye Institute and Chairman of the department of Ophthalmology, were pivotal in my career."

Breaking the glass ceiling - Bronwyn segued into a faculty position at Stein Eye, and also became the first woman president of the American Association of University Professors (AUPO), the organization for ophthalmology departments in the U.S. and Canada, and the president of the Pan American Association of Ophthalmology (PAAO).

Giving for someone who could not - "I thought about a gift to benefit Stein Eye for a long time. I wanted to honor my first husband, who was not able to have a life and career. By endowing a chair in his name, I gave him the legacy that he could not create," Bronwyn says.

With this in place, funded through an outright gift of cash and an additional future gift pledged through her estate, Bronwyn is now focusing on further structuring her estate in a tax-sensible manner to fund an endowed chair named after her mother and grandmother. "My grandmother was a Norwegian farm girl who married a physician. She used to say, 'you better study or otherwise you're going to end up on a farm,' Bronwyn says, laughing. "My mother graduated from medical school in 1941 and became a pediatrician while my father was busy with the U.S. military in the Pacific theater. She managed to work full-time and raise five children."

Not one to forget kindness, Bronwyn also plans to create a "nurses travel fund" in honor of nurses Nan Fulton, Sue Yamada and Leonore Vogel who were especially caring and helpful while she was dealing with her husband's health and his passing.


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