Department of Ophthalmology

Cullen Eye Institute


About the Cullen Eye Institute


The Cullen Eye Institute began in August 1971 with a generous $1 million gift from The Cullen Foundation to enhance research, patient care and medical education provided by the Department of Ophthalmology at Baylor College of Medicine.

“All Houstonians are indebted to Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Roy Cullen, to the members of the Cullen family, and to The Cullen Foundation Trustees for the outstanding contributions which the Foundation has made to the medical facilities of our city,” said L.F. McCollum, chair of the College’s Board of Trustees at the time of the gift.

Oilman Hugh Roy Cullen and his wife Lillie Cranz Cullen had been Baylor’s patrons since 1947, when they committed $800,000 to construct the Roy and Lillie Cullen Building in the new Texas Medical Center. The Cullen family’s philanthropy at the College continues today.

Subsequent gifts to the Cullen Eye Institute built a facility at what is now Houston Methodist. Its 1977 dedication statement proved prophetic:

“The Roy and Lillie Cullen Eye Institute is destined to become a leader in the fight against blindness. Through use of its research, educational and clinical resources, Institute physicians hope to make great progress toward reducing or preventing many eye disorders.”

A decade later, the Cullen Eye Institute had seen 146 physicians graduate from its three-year ophthalmology residency training program and 116 complete postdoctoral fellowship training in clinical specialties and research sciences. Its faculty doubled in size and participated in ophthalmic advances including:

  • Identifying the location of the genes on the human X chromosome responsible for severe blinding disorders such as x-linked retinitis pigmentosa, choroideremia and Lowe syndrome.
  • Developing new techniques to remove cataracts and restore vision by implantation of a safer and more effective artificial lens.
  • Introducing timolol and dipivefrin, safer and more effective drops to control glaucoma.
  • Applying laser technology to halt retinal diseases caused by diabetes, age-related macular disorders and other conditions.

Today the Cullen Eye Institute name encompasses Baylor’s research, education and clinical initiatives in ophthalmology. The Cullen Eye Institute has produced numerous nationally and internationally known ophthalmologists and continues to be known as an academically rigorous training site that prepares residents and fellows to be leaders in their field.