What's new at USF? New dorms, dining options, expanded USF Eye Institute on Tampa campus

After Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc in New Orleans in 2005, Dr. Ramesh Ayyala rebuilt the residency-training program in ophthalmology at Tulane University. Now the internationally renowned glaucoma surgeon has a new assignment: building the University of South Florida’s Eye Institute into a premier facility.

“What we’re trying to achieve here is a one-stop shop,” says Dr. Ayyala, Director of the institute run by USF Health. “Once you come to our place you really don’t need to go anywhere else.”

Dr. Ayyala joined the staff April 1. Then the institute moved into a larger facility at Morsani Center for Advanced Healthcare by July 1. It held its grand opening Thursday, Aug. 16, as students returned to campus for the fall semester.

At the 27,000-square-foot facility at 13330 USF Laurel Drive, the institute is able to offer expanded services including fitting for glasses and contact lenses and reconstructive cosmetic surgery around the eye. Surgeries, which can involve artificial corneas, are available on the second floor of the building.

The new institute is just one of several changes greeting returning students at the Tampa campus: three new residence halls opened at The Village, bringing the population to more than 6,300. Move-in day also was Thursday at Endeavor, Horizon and Pinnacle residence halls, which provide housing for 1,100 students.

Dr. Ayyala, who chairs the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine Department of Ophthalmology says he will be building the Eye Institute around three pillars: patient care, resident training, and innovative research. He’s assembling a team of scientists who have been scattered throughout various departments to deal with whatever problems patients present.

He’s already noticed the institute gets regular referrals of patients with eye infections. He figures a kit can be developed to help eye doctors test the cause of the infection: bacterial or fungal.

“Once I make the distinction,” he points out, “it’s easy for me to jumpstart the treatment process.”

He’s also making plans for a slow-release antibiotic spray to replace drops currently applied once every hour.

“That would be wonderful for the patients and the doctor too,” he says. “Those are the kinds of things that I’m going to bring to the table.”

Antibiotics have to be applied topically instead of orally.

“What we have to administer is antibiotics or antifungal medication topically,” he explains. “If you take oral medications, it’s not going to reach the target zone.”

Since the move, Dr. Ayyala has been equipping the surgical facility with cutting-edge equipment to facilitate specialty care like high-end cataract operations and a variety of glaucoma procedures.

“It is open. We are in the process of equipping it with all the latest surgical tools,” he says of the surgery center on the second floor. “By the end of the year, we will have everything I need to deliver the quality care that the people here deserve.”

He adds that the next generation of surgeons will be “extremely well-trained.”

Plans call for the addition of two subspecialty fellowships next school year and training for more medical students. Expanded care for low-income patients also is anticipated.

“I am totally committed to taking care of the indigent,” he adds. “I will make it happen.”

His quest to improve the institute, so area residents no longer have to travel to Miami for high-quality care, involves searching for “big donors” to support research and education.

“If you have a big dream, money is needed,” he points out.

A native of Hyderabad, India, he earned his medical degree at Gandhi Medical College, Osmania University in Hyderabad. He went on to complete his residency training in ophthalmology at Mersey Region Hospitals, United Kingdom and USF, followed by fellowships at Harvard Medical School and Boston University Medical Center. His specialties include glaucoma surgery and cornea and external diseases.

The former location at 13127 USF Magnolia Drive, across from H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, has been acquired by Moffitt. Details were not available, according to Moffitt spokesman Steve Blanchard, who acknowledged the building’s location was ideal.

New dorms, restaurants open

Meanwhile, opening the new residence halls at The Village means the university has achieved a major benchmark -- at least 25 percent of its undergraduates seeking degrees are living in university-managed or affiliated residences.

The benchmark is required for the Carnegie Foundation’s designation as primarily residential, which could help USF in its long-term effort to become a member of the Association of American Universities. The invitation-only, Washington, D.C.-based organization is composed of 62 institutions advancing society through education, research, and discovery.

Students pack new dining spots at USF Tampa.The Village, run by a public-private partnership with Capstone-Harrison Street, LLC, houses 2,000. It opened a year ago with two residence halls, a dining facility and wellness and recreation center.

Also new at The Village is a BurgerFi location set to open Monday, Aug. 20, when classes resume. The second, collegiate BurgerFi location, in Pinnacle Hall, features craft burgers, hand-cut fries and onion rings with house-made sauces.

The chain established in 2011 features Angus beef patties without steroids, antibiotics, growth hormones, chemicals or additives. It has indoor seating accommodating 60 at the 2,500-square-foot eatery, which will serve lunch and dinner seven days a week.

On-campus dining received a refresh Thursday with the opening of Argos Exchange, a sort of food hall where patrons can choose from a number of options. Run by USF Dining Services, Argos replaces the Fresh Food Company residential dining hall, says Marketing Director Jessica Cicalese.

It accepts campus meal plans and cash, credit or debit. Visitors can eat, study, attend cooking demonstrations or hang out, Cicalese says.

Ready to check it out? Here are the restaurants at the Exchange located in the Argos Center south of USF Holly Drive between USF Cedar and USF Maple drives.

• Flip Kitchen regularly alters or flips menu items like stuffed baguettes, epic mac and cheese, fresh Mediterranean and global burritos. Four core offerings include rice bowls, salads, flatbreads, and smoothies. This is the eatery’s first location.

• Restaurant Rotation offers diners a new style of food every three weeks. In its rotation is a breakfast-for-dinner menu with Baked French Toast, Avocado Smash Bowls, and Acai Bowls. Also planned are Barbecue, Mediterranean and Italian-inspired themes.

• The locally owned Bay Coffee and Tea Company has a wide variety of organic coffee along with lattes, seasonal smoothies, and fresh baked items. BullsXpress specializes in convenience items like bottled beverages and ready-to-eat meals and snacks.

Additionally, Einstein Brothers Bagels and Express Market are new in renovated space at the Carol and Frank Morsani Center, where it has an expanded menu and opening specials for the first week of school.

Construction is well underway on a new Publix at Fletcher Avenue and USF Palm Drive. The store is expected to open late in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to spokesman Brian West.

Read more articles by Cheryl Rogers.

Cheryl Rogers is a freelance writer and editor who enjoys writing about careers. An ebook author, she also writes Bible Camp Mystery series that shares her faith. She is publisher of New Christian Books Online Magazine and founder of the Mentor Me Career Network, a free online community, offering career consulting, coaching and career information. 
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