The contact lens fraternity has lost a dear and beloved friend. We all knew her as ‘Gina’ – her preference. There are two meanings given for the name Luigina; a famous warrior and diligent or persevering, both equally appropriate. She exemplified a warrior fighting the horrible disease that eventually overcame her and amazingly continued working in her usual blinkered fashion after receiving the diagnosis of an incurable condition. I loved and agreed with her husband Ben’s sentiment that Gina “never had to force herself to get things done, she just did it”.
Gina was immensely proud of her Italian heritage. There were few things she enjoyed more than travelling to Italy (mostly for work). Some trivia - we had a tradition at the Centre for Contact Lens Research (CCLR) to have pot luck dinners whenever researchers visited or for any other excuse to get together and I am sure others will miss her delicious pasta concoctions that she learnt from her Italian ‘mama’. Gina was part of a large Sorbara family and the youngest of five siblings. Her husband Ben is an optometrist and children Gerry and Emi are also in the health-care field. They were a part of our Optometry and CCLR family.
Gina graduated from the School of Optometry & Vision Science, University of Waterloo in 1977 and after a year in private practice spent the next 39 years as an academic before her premature retirement due to illness. She completed a Master’s degree in 1993 and rose to the rank of Professor. She was the head of the Contact Lens clinic for most of her career and was innovative in introducing orthokeratology and scleral lens fitting early in their revived significance. Her research interest grew and flourished as a member of the CCLR and subsequently the Centre for Ocular Research and Education (CORE). As a result of her transition from clinical to regular faculty with her appointment as an Assistant Professor she had to develop her independence and began a successful collaboration with Drs. Trefford Simpson and Natalie Hutchings at Waterloo and later became a member of the CLAY group led by Dr Robin Chalmers. Gina co-authored over 100 papers, an admirable achievement considering that she had many other academic and administrative roles at the Optometry School.
Of all of her contributions, education was her passion. Besides her students, residents and graduate students at Waterloo, she thrived on educating practitioners, educators and students through the International Association of Contact Lens Educators (IACLE). Gina became a member of IACLE in 1989 and served as assistant secretary, treasurer and vice president of its executive board over a 30-year period. She helped develop the renowned IACLE curriculum and participated in many of the international education conferences and programmes for IACLE members and their students. IACLE recognised Gina’s contribution with a Lifetime Achievement Award last year. Her contributions were especially appreciated in the developing countries.
Her friends and colleagues amongst the many organisations and societies will miss her bubbly, caring and sharing disposition. She lived life to the fullest and enjoyed the short time that she had. Her family and friends were robbed of the many more years that she should have spent with us.
Published online: April 07, 2021