Lee De León was executive senior associate athletics director and assistant vice president for development at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.
UL Lafayette graduate and local eye surgeon Leon C. LaHaye paid tribute to the university for its role in securing government clearance for his LaFaci Surgical System.
“There was no doubt where I would come when I was in a bind,” LaHaye said during a Thursday press conference at the UL Lafayette Alumni Center. “The energy and enthusiasm I felt here as a student was still evident when I returned 30 years later to ask for help. The university never stopped in its pursuit to help one of its graduates fulfill his dream.”
LaHaye unveiled the LaFaci system, which he designed to improve surgical results and safety during the LASIK eye surgery, at the press conference, which drew a crowd of university administrators and researchers.
Among them: UL Lafayette professors Fred Farshad and Herman Reike, who along with a team of three graduate students from the university’s Engineering Department, conducted analysis of the LaFaci system after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration denied clearance to the hand-held device.
The UL Lafayette team initiated a fluid flow-testing program to examine the ease of liquid mobility in the device, which integrates 11 specialized functions previously performed by ophthalmologists during the second phase of LASIK.
Using eyes harvested from dead pigs, the university researchers addressed irrigation, aspiration and air delivery conditions. The UL Lafayette team’s findings were integrated into a final report presented to the FDA. Less than two weeks later, LaHaye received FDA clearance for the system.
LaHaye is a 1974 graduate of USL. He received his medical degree from LSU Medical School in New Orleans and completed his residency in ophthalmology at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. He has practiced ophthalmology and eye surgery for 19 years.
Speaking at the press conference, UL Lafayette President Dr. Ray Authement said that LaHaye’s accomplishments may be overshadowed in the public’s eye by a series of testimonial advertisements featuring Super Bowl quarterback (and LaHaye patient) Jake Delhomme, a member of the Carolina Panthers and former USL standout.
“Dr. LaHaye can do all these things — be an innovator, an inventor, an outstanding physician — but I suggest to you that he’ll best be known for making Jake Delhomme’s eyes see the whole field,” Authement said.
The president noted that LaHaye’s return to the university three decades after his graduation to seek assistance for the LaFaci project is “an example of what universities should do.”
“Young people come to the university and, after graduation, we send them out into the world,” he said. “But to have the same people come back and continue to seek assistance from the university indicates that our commitment to our students is never truly finished.”