The Amazing Grace of UC Davis vision care – University of California, Davis


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June 13, 2022 — Anne-Marie Messano Petrie knew exactly where she wanted to allocate $10,000 to UC Davis as the winner of the In Greater Focus magazine readership survey contest. For years she had been meaning to make a gift to the UC Davis Eye Center and winning this contest was the motivating push. 
“I was super excited when I found out I won because I’ve never won anything in my life,” Petrie said. “This survey contest was a catalyst for starting my endowment in honor of Dr. Ivan Schwab, who saved me from going blind.”
Schwab is a professor of ophthalmology at UC Davis School of Medicine and he has been the director of corneal services at the UC Davis Medical Center. Now retired, Schwab is known for the development of a bioengineered artificial corneal surface among his many clinical and teaching credentials. He has been a board director on the American Board of Ophthalmology, and achieved the Life Achievement Award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology in addition to numerous teaching awards locally and nationally.
Readers of In Greater Focus had the opportunity to take an online survey in December 2021 and could enter a contest to designate $10,000 of UC Davis Foundation funds to a UC Davis area of their choice.
Along with the $10,000 survey prize, Petrie added $50,000, creating an endowed fund to support cornea research and advance ophthalmology initiatives at the UC Davis Eye Center in honor of Schwab for his dedication and the exceptional care given to his patients. 
“I don’t know a better way to pay it forward than to give back to UC Davis and promote the future of UC Davis eye care so other people can have the benefit I had,” Petrie said. “I hope my gift is the beginning of increased availability of care for all people who live in this area.” 
Petrie’s declining vision forced her into early retirement after a thriving career in media and entertainment, serving as CBS Radio’s vice president/national political director for nine years. Petrie started as director of business development for CBS Radio in California and later led national and statewide political advertising with the network’s 126 stations in 27 major markets.
“I was excelling at my job, working out and being healthy, but everything stopped when I got sick,” Petrie said. “When you’re healthy, you don’t understand how important medical care is.”
In 2014 Petrie was diagnosed with a thyroid storm, a rare health condition that occurs as a result of untreated hyperthyroidism. The symptoms impacted her suddenly and she remembers her eyesight deteriorating fast. As someone who studied literature in college, Petrie said she couldn’t bear not being able to read.
“I’ve never had doctors who seemed to care for me as much as Dr. Schwab, Dr. Jeffrey Tanji, Dr. Lily Koo Lin, Dr. Nandine Gandhi, Dr. Jennifer Li and Dr. Reginald Low—all my doctors at UC Davis,” Petrie said. “There was a point when I was being monitored every week for the inflammation and swelling in my optic nerve because once that nerve gets crushed, you’re blind.” 
Petrie’s doctors collaborated to give her the best outcome, from treatment to surgery to recovery. Schwab continued to see Petrie regularly for years after her thyroid storm was treated. 
“It sounds corny but when I think of UC Davis and my doctors, it reminds me of the song, Amazing Grace; I was going blind, but now I can see,” Petrie said, tearing up.
Petrie is now a donor and volunteer at UC Davis, who has helped the Eye Center raise money on Give Day for the past two years. This year, her $2,500 Comparative Ophthalmology Advancement Challenge for Give Day was unlocked and she matched the gift. But her relationship with UC Davis Health has been decades-long.
Her care at UC Davis Health started when she and her husband, former Sacramento Kings President of Basketball operations Geoff Petrie, moved to Sacramento in 1994. 
“What makes UC Davis truly unique is the incredible doctors who specialize in so many different areas and how they all communicate with each other,” Petrie said. “I could have died from my thyroid storm but my doctors continue to monitor my health with the highest professional standard to this day.”
The UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine also holds a special place in Petrie’s life. She was on the board of Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue and had taken her own rescue golden retrievers to the vet school for their health care.
“UC Davis became a very important part of my life and although I have a busy schedule, I like to stay up to date with what’s happening in health and vet med,” Petrie said. “The magazine was a way for me to read and pay attention to what UC Davis was doing.”
Petrie said that taking the online magazine survey was a great way to give feedback to the university. Her gift is part of UC Davis’ $2 billion fundraising campaign, Expect Greater: From UC Davis, For the World, the largest philanthropic endeavor in university history. Together, donors and UC Davis are advancing work to prepare future leaders, sustain healthier communities, and bring innovative solutions to today’s most urgent challenges.
“Although my gift is a small part of UC Davis’ $2 billion campaign, like a drop in the water, I wanted to be a part of that ocean and I’m proud to support UC Davis,” Petrie said.
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