December, 2017 | In Memoriam - Barbara Crow - Portland, OR
On November 7, 2017 the world lost a true pioneer in the world of eye banking. Barbara started her career at OHSU’s Casey Eye Institute where she ran the Oregon Eye Bank from 1987 to 1998 at which time she took over Lions Eye Bank of Oregon (now Lions VisionGift). She co-Directed the two organizations until merging the programs in 2000. That in and of itself would be accomplishment enough for most of us, but not for Barbara. Barbara spent the next 16 years leading the eye bank through a continuous growth trajectory that has allowed us to contribute to sight saving surgeries, research and education at a level unfathomable in 1998.
It was her commitment to sharing our knowledge that provoked the strongest voices of sorrow from around the eye banking community. Barbara led the EBAA as Chairman in 2000-2002 and was recognized in 2004 with the Heise Award, the highest honor bestowed upon an eye banker for her tremendous contributions to the field. Barbara went on to lead LVG for more than 10 years after winning that award and has mentored many staff to follow her example of giving back to the community. It is through this mentorship and organizational strength that Barbara’s legacy will live on in to the future and is perhaps her greatest gift to eye banking.
While eye banking has lost an icon, Lions VisionGift and our friends have lost our long-time former CEO who was so much more than a leader. She was a friend, a mentor, and an inspiration to be our best. Every recipient of a cornea from LVG, every family offered the option of donation, every “yes” that is honored through the gift of sight, is a tribute to her memory.
July, 2017 | A big announcement and milestone from our Boston team! - LVG East- Boston, MA
It is with great pleasure that we announce our first tissues processed at Lions VisionGift East (Boston, MA). Allison Andersen prepped 2 DMEK tissues for surgery with Stephen Wehrer assisting. This is a significant accomplishment and reflects hours of hard work by both Stephen and Allison in getting to this point. This feat could also not have been possible without the many hours of work by our IT, RAD, and Distribution departments. Congratulations are due all around!
March, 2017 | Eye tissue donors like Portland Trail Blazer Jerome Kersey have saved the eyesight of more than 30,000 people - Ariane Le Chevallier at OHSU - Portland, OR
When we think about organ donation, we often think about the heart, kidney or liver, but eye tissue from deceased organ donors also can be gifted to patients in need of sight-saving surgeries.
Now surgeons at OHSU Casey Eye Institute are using a new technique called Halo graft, a patch made of donated corneal tissue, to perform tube shunt surgeries that prevent vision loss in glaucoma patients. Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide.
Shandiz Tehrani, M.D., Ph.D., an ophthalmologist and glaucoma specialist at Casey Eye Institute, has performed more than 100 surgeries using the Halo graft, which was developed by researchers at Lions VisionGift, Oregon’s eye bank. While topical medication and lasers are used in mild to moderate cases of glaucoma, patients with severe glaucoma often need surgery to prevent blindness.
Tehrani says Halo is now the mainstay for covering tube shunt implants at Casey Eye Institute and is improving the long-term success of the surgery.“In the past, donated corneal tissue use was limited by prior medical history and surgeries,” says Tehrani, an assistant professor of ophthalmology in the OHSU School of Medicine and member of the Medical Advising Committee of VisionGift. “With the advent of Halo, previously unused corneal tissue from one eye can now be used to create multiple Halo grafts and benefit up to four different glaucoma patients.”
“Halo grafts allow surgeons like Dr. Tehrani to maximize donated eye tissues and help save the eyesight of many more patients,” says Corrina Patzer, chief strategy officer at VisionGift. “For families who have lost loved ones that became eye tissue donors, learning that their gifts were used to save the eyesight of another person is often a significant comfort in what is such a dark moment in their lives.”
Portland's CBS affiliate, KOIN-TV, recently talked with Tehrani about beloved Portland Trailblazer Jerome Kersey, whose eye tissue was donated when he passed away in 2015. It was later revealed that his eye tissue was able to be preserved and then gifted to several glaucoma patients, including some at Casey Eye Institute, using the Halo graft.
Surgeons at Casey Eye Institute use donated eye tissue to treat glaucoma, corneal transplants and emergency ocular trauma repair, among others.
September, 2016 | CEO of Lions VisionGift Announces Retirement Date - Portland, OR
Barbara Crow, Chief Executive Officer of Lions VisionGift (LVG), has announced her retirement; her final day will be December 31, 2016. Ms. Crow has served as Executive Director/CEO of LVG, formerly Lions Eye Bank of Oregon, since 1998. She came to the organization from Oregon Health & Sciences University where she served as Executive Director of the Oregon Eye Bank at OHSU from 1987, and is credited, along with Dr. Joseph Robertson and Lion George DeHart, with merging the two eye banks in 2000.
Ms. Crow’s tenure saw the eye bank through its growth years as a program of the Oregon Lions Sight & Hearing Foundation, to its present day status as a world renown eye bank dedicated to its mission of honoring its donors and their gifts of sight in order to eradicate preventable blindness through transplantation, vital eye research, education and the provision of medical products used to treat specific conditions in the eye. As she puts it, “I came to a program that had 7 employees and a 24 member Board of dedicated Lions, many of whom stayed with the eye bank to provide guidance and support through the years. FDA regulations soon pushed the eye bank into a new world of increasing tasks to complete the same job. Today LVG has a staff of 60 and provides over 1500 corneas a year for transplant in Oregon and across the world. We’ve added serum eye drops to ease dry eye conditions, a patented “halo” group of sterile tissues used in glaucoma surgeries, and vital eye research projects in conjunction with local cornea surgeons and with researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD.”
According to Ms. Crow, “This has been a ‘Dream’ job for me; I’ve been assisted by a superlative staff and a group of steady Lions who believed in the eye bank. Together we have built an organization that is the envy of eye banks all across the world. Our Medical Advisory Board is filled with surgeons renowned in the world of ophthalmology; our Board and community has a staunch group of Lions and non-Lions that have stood by us, acted as tissue couriers for us and cheered for every milestone we crossed. We have ventured into cell biology research in a partnership with Johns Hopkins University, and soon we will open Lions VisionGift East in Boston, MA. This latest venture will facilitate the delivery of tissue to our many surgeons in the eastern part of the US. I feel this is the right time for me to step aside and watch as LVG soars to new heights! I will forever be grateful to many Lions, some of whom are no longer with us but stay with me only in spirit. No one could have had a better career than to come to work each day and know that we make a difference in the lives of those who have suffered with unnecessary blindness. My time with LVG will be extended as a consultant during 2017, to ensure a smooth transition in leadership of this fine organization.”
September, 2016 | First Lions VisionGift Prepared DMEK Transplanted in New York - New York, NY
Lions VisionGift is really proud of the relationships we develop with talented surgeons from across the nation – and around the world – when they visit us to observe techniques and protocols of the newest corneal surgeries; others have spent time in fellowships with some of our partners in care, like the Devers Eye Clinic, and gone on to their own practices elsewhere. In both cases many have maintained their affinity for Lions VisionGift prepared tissue. This trend took another step forward when our newest Medical Director, Dr. Chris Sáles, who now practices in NY, performed two DMEK surgeries in early September 2016 utilizing Lions VisionGift prepared DMEK tissue.Dr. Sáles reported that the procedures went perfectly and he was pleased with the blue vital dye staining LVG utilizes in our pre-cuts because it allows the surgeon to see the tissue better during the surgery, but it also highlights any cell damage that can occur during tissue recovery and processing – noting that both tissues had “nothing to see but pristine endothelial cells.
DMEK procedures represent an increasing proportion of all corneal transplants, and the utilization of an eye bank prepared DMEK graft, on the other side of the country, is an important step in the continued growth of the therapy and of Lions VisionGift’ s reach. In addition to New York, Lions VisionGift, is also a licensed tissue bank in Oregon, California, Florida, and Massachusetts, as well as in the nation of Canada.
March, 2016 | Processing Technician, Phil Dye, Reaches 1,000 DMEK Preparations - Portland, OR
As we all know, there are two versions of endothelial keratoplasty therapy; DSAEK which has been performed for more than 10 years and the newer DMEK, which is only a couple of years old. Of note, each of these therapies was developed, in large part, through extensive exploration and refinement by Lions VisionGift laboratory staff – with DMEK largely being pioneered in our lab by our technician Phil Dye. That Phil just this month passed the 1,000 DMEK graft preparation threshold is a truly remarkable achievement. Coupled with the many hundreds of peels Phil performed during validation and clinical trials for the procedure, Phil’s epic contribution to DMEK science means he has very likely performed more of these peels than any other person on the planet.
As noted by Joshua Galloway, Processing Manager for Lions VisionGift, "Phil Dye has recently processed his 1000th DMEK graft for transplant and we are aware of only 1 other person the world, Dr. Mark Gorovoy, who can make the same claim. This is a remarkable achievement in itself, but to prepare that many with as few failures as Phil has had is even more astounding. In his over 1000 attempts Phil has been 98.5% successful in preparing transplantable grafts. To hit such a mark with that level of success on such an incredibly difficult procedure is a testament to the skills and dedication to our mission that Phil possesses."
Not to get hung up on language – more specifically, on the validity of hyperbolic statements about the “best” or “greatest” – but Lions VisionGift just may have some of the most impressive eye banking professionals in the game. It’s true that every company will claim to have the greatest employees, but how often does that seem like a marketing point? How often do companies take the time to explain why their employees are the best? To that end, we hope the information you've just read helps qualify Phil for that elite category of industry leader.
2/13/17 - 2/15/17 | FDA & the Changing Paradigm for HCT/P Regulation - Alexandria, Virginia
2/26/17 - 3/1/17 | American-European Congress of Ophthalmic Surgery - Aspen, Colorado
3/2/17 - 3/5/17 | American Glaucoma Society - San Diego, California