James E. Ervin (third from left), president of Lions
Clubs International, accompanied by Connie de la Garza of Harlingen (from
left), an international director of Lions Clubs International; Wichard A.J. van Heuven, M.D., professor and chairman of the Department of
Ophthalmology; and George Rogers, director and treasurer of the Lions
Sight Research Foundation, toured the Department of Ophthalmology during
the president's annual visit.
Clubs International accepted a challenge in 1925 from Helen Keller to
become the “Knights of the Blind.” During the past 75 years, the
Lions, which is the largest international service organization,
has upheld this promise.
organization has held fund-raising events, organized and conducted
thousands of free vision screenings for a variety of groups, and has
raised millions of dollars for valuable research equipment in the quest
to prevent blindness and cure eye diseases.
the Lions Clubs of Texas and the Lions Sight Research Foundation
continue in the long-held tradition of supporting eye studies by
providing thousands of dollars in funding to the Health Science Center’s
Department of Ophthalmology for various research projects and laboratory
equipment. In addition, the Mobile Eye Screening Unit (MESU) was created
and funded by the Lions in cooperation with the H-E-B Grocery Company.
MESU, a modified 40-foot bus platform, is equipped to conduct vision
screening for individuals in 21 South Central Texas counties who may not
have the opportunity to receive regular eye examinations. The mobile
unit provides basic screenings at no charge for visual acuity and
diseases including glaucoma. For many individuals, this is the first
indication of eyesight problems.
Lions Sight Research Foundation provides a full-time manager/coordinator
for the MESU and trained Lions Club
volunteers to conduct the screenings.
unit includes a research area where Health Science Center investigators
can administer special test and gather data related to a variety of
studies, including glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.
research area includes a state-of-the-art Ophthalmic Imaging System,
which enables technicians to look at the retina, capture digital
pictures on film and, ultimately, send the images electronically
anywhere in the world for consultation with a retina specialist.
of the conventional two weeks or longer report time, both patient and
technician can view images of changes in the eye in a matter of minutes.
And since the patient is in the mobile unit when the results come back
from the retina specialist, no time is lost trying to contact the
patient later,” said Robert Hobson, South Texas diabetes program
coordinator for the ophthalmology department. “The patient has then
seen what the problem is and heard a specialist’s opinion on what to
expect in the future. This increases the likelihood that the individual
will take steps to go to an eye doctor.”
Lions Club organization holds an annual walkathon dubbed “Stride for
Sight” to raise money for equipment such as remote imaging systems and
various research projects. Several years ago the Lions Sight Research
Foundation provided funding for the development of the Lions Sight
Research Center, a teaching laboratory in the Department of
Ophthalmology. The center provides pathology services
to the city and is used by researchers for tissue analysis and
the past 10 years, the Lions Sight Research Foundation has funded a
number of pieces of research equipment for the Department of
Ophthalmology, including a coherent laser beam profiler for Randolph
Glickman, Ph.D., director of the retinal physiology laboratory in the
ophthalmology department, for a study on laser-induced hyperthermia as a
treatment for intraocular melanoma, a malignant tumor with a high
cannot say enough about the Lions,” said Dr. Glickman. “They have
come through for me several times with emergency funding when some piece
of equipment has broken during a study and funds were not available in
my grant to cover the expense of replacing or fixing the items.”
Keil, Ph.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology and director of the
vascular physiology laboratory, received funding from the Lions to
purchase a laser Doppler blood flow-meter system for his research on
ocular blood flow and the circulation between the cornea and the retina.
Doppler flowmeter bounces a laser beam off the retina and the moving red
blood cells in the tissue, resulting in an index of blood flow. Dr. Keil
will use the information gleaned from the Doppler flowmeter in research
on glaucoma and diabetic eye disease.
aspect of the partnership between the Health Science Center and the
Lions foundation is the summer scholars program, which places several
medical students with an interest in ophthalmology in the department to
let them experience basic and clinical research. The program is financed
through the Lions of District 2-A2 and is designed to attract medical
students to the ophthalmology field.
ophthalmology department is deeply indebted to the Lions Clubs and
District 2-A2 for their generous, continued support of our research
initiatives,” said Wichard A.J. van Heuven, M.D., professor and
chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology. “We hope to continue and
expand this valuable partnership in the future.”
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