Visionary Journeys: A Cornea Surgeon’s Mission to Bring Vision to the World

Visionary Journeys: A Cornea Surgeon’s Mission to Bring Vision to the World

At Saving Sight, our vision is to be the global partnership model for how eye banking and charitable vision services can most effectively serve people and communities. This standard we hold ourselves to has guided us to over 60 years of excellence in eye banking. We wouldn’t be able to change lives by Saving Sight without the support and dedication of our corneal surgeon partners. One corneal surgeon partner has a history of Saving Sight in the United States and globally.

Sara Krachmalnick, Senior Ophthalmology Resident at KU, Dr. Ben Roberts, Ophthalmology Specialist at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya, and Dr. Miles Greenwald, Ophthalmology Specialist

Sara Krachmalnick, Senior Ophthalmology Resident at KU, Dr. Ben Roberts, Ophthalmology Specialist at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya, and Dr. Miles Greenwald, Ophthalmology Specialist

Dr. Miles Greenwald started at the University of Kansas Medical Center in September 2023, focusing on corneal surgeries and comprehensive eye care. Before KU, Dr. Greenwald completed a one-year cornea fellowship before participating in a Global Ophthalmology Fellowship at the University of Michigan. The Global Ophthalmology Fellowships aims to build skills and relationships with different hospitals and clinics in the developing world. Often, there are fewer professionals, nurses, and technicians, and their resources are a lot less.
Dr. Greenwald spent seven months of that year traveling to different countries, working with the local ophthalmologists to determine how best to provide eye care. Dr. Greenwald spent time in India, Rwanda, Honduras, and two places in Kenya.

Just a few months ago, Greenwald traveled back to Kenya on a mission trip to save sight and teach and train the next generation of corneal surgeons. Coming out of the Global Ophthalmology Fellowship, he knew he wanted to work in an academic ophthalmology department, and that is what KU provided.

Sara Krachmalnick, Senior Ophthalmology Resident at KU, and Dr. Miles Greenwald, Ophthalmology Specialist

“I knew that I wanted to work with residents and medical students and be involved in training and teaching the next generation how to be good ophthalmologists and doctors. I’ve been very fortunate throughout my training to have learned from just amazing, amazing people and have mentors who have devoted so much to training me and helping me be the best that I can be. And so, I wanted to be involved in that as part of my career,” Greenwald said.

Before his trip, Greenwald connected with the ophthalmologist in Kenya and discussed what he could do and what the resident could do to be most helpful. The ophthalmologist said that people are on the waiting list for cornea transplants. After hearing this, Greenwald connected with Saving Sight to see how we could partner with him and save sight.

“Saving Sight was super supportive. They just said to tell us the details. How can we help logistically? How can we help get these patients taken care of? How many tissues would be helpful?” Greenwald said.

In a week, Greenwald and the team completed 12 corneal transplants with tissue provided by Saving Sight. Patients ranged in age from as young as 20 to patients in their 60s. “One of the crucial pieces for collaborations in corneal transplants is the lifelong care that is needed… I can trust Dr. Ben Roberts and his team at the eye hospital that when we do the surgery during that one time period, he and his team are there year-round and are able to care for the patients and do all the post-op care for the transplants,” Greenwald said.

Eye banking is something we take for granted here in the United States. Kenya only has one eye bank, which only processes a little tissue. It is difficult, if not impossible, for physicians in Kenya to get tissue from that eye bank.

“So, working with Saving Sight to have the tissues for the trip would be impossible without Saving Sights support. It makes it possible to restore vision for these patients and to try and give them their livelihood and their lives back,” Greenwald said.

Greenwald says the support he and other doctors within different specialties receive from leadership at KU has been invaluable in making his dream a reality.

“I’m excited for it to continue to build and become kind of a regular thing for the faculty and the residents to be involved in,” Greenwald said.

He plans a trip to Honduras, where he will work with a few ophthalmology surgical fellows, teaching them how to do some advanced surgeries, including corneal transplants and glaucoma surgery. The goal of his trip to Honduras is not for him to do another corneal transplant but to help the young surgeons learn how to do it for themselves.

Corneal blindness is a problem everywhere in the world. It’s estimated that about 4 million people worldwide are legally blind from corneal blindness.

“That number can be easily daunting, and I think we can get numb to it when there are statistics like that. Each of those people has a life dramatically affected by the lack of vision. Being able to partner with Saving Sight to do these surgeries and provide the appropriate follow-up care and post-operative management for each patient and to be able to help restore their sight and regain their life is rewarding.”

A Partnership to Save Sight in Nigeria

Since 1991, Dr. Ukeme Umana of Marion Eye Center has made annual humanitarian trips to Nigeria, providing much-needed eye care, and performing sight-saving surgeries. Most recently, Dr. Umana traveled to Nigeria in October 2022. During this trip, he saw many patients who normally would not have access to eye care and was able to perform cataract surgeries and several corneal transplants.

“In 2013, I started offering corneal transplants in addition to other surgeries,” recounts Dr. Umana. “People come from all over the country because there is no eye bank in Nigeria.”

This 5-year-old patient had scarring on his cornea and received a transplant to restore his sight.

Since that time, there has been a steady need for his services. Patients range in age and travel far to receive the sought-after care that Dr. Umana and the other volunteer doctors provide. During this most recent trip, Dr. Umana was able to help restore sight to a 7-year-old who needed cataract surgery and saw a variety of cases that resulted from infection and limited access to vision care.

For years, Saving Sight has provided Dr. Umana with tissue for his mission work, and during this most recent mission trip was the sole source of tissue. Dr. Umana’s work to reach underserved areas of the world like Nigeria extends Saving Sight’s mission beyond our local service area.

During his trips abroad, Dr. Umana also focuses on training local physicians as there is a shortage of doctors specializing in corneal transplantation. While time is short and the need is great, every opportunity to teach others is valuable and precious.

Dr. Umana expects that he will return to Nigeria again in the spring of 2023.

Honoring the Legacy of Ophthalmic Visionary Dr. Bruce Grene

In October, the Wichita community said farewell to a friend and visionary in eye care. Dr. Bruce Grene, the founder of Wichita-based Grene Vision Group, was also instrumental in establishing the Wichita Eye Foundation in 1986. With Dr. Grene’s support, the Eye Foundation would grow to eventually become the Kansas Eye Bank and Cornea Research Center, Inc., providing corneal tissue for transplant in Kansas and beyond. In 2021, the Wichita eye bank’s impact on local Kansas communities multiplied as it became a division of Saving Sight.

Dr. Bruce Grene

Dr. Bruce Grene was instrumental in establishing the Kansas Eye Bank.

Dr. Grene’s legacy can be seen in many facets of the practice of ophthalmology. His passion for ocular research and innovation led him to create Celluvisc, a worldwide product for treating surface eye disease and injury. Dr. Grene entrusted the royalties from the sale of Celluvisc to the Wichita Eye Foundation, helping to fund the Kansas Eye Bank’s growth and work in restoring sight.

In his creation of Grene Vision Group, Dr. Grene was ahead of his time in providing the best in patient care. He had the wisdom and foresight to create an integrated group of ophthalmology, optometry, and optical professionals working together to serve the community. Most importantly, Dr. Grene embodied a passion for serving patients.

“Bruce and I worked together for over two decades, and he was perhaps as charismatic and captivating of a person as I’d ever met,” said Dr. Dasa Gangadhar, ophthalmologist and original partner at Grene Vision Group. “The temperature in the room would go up when he walked in. He was loving, he was gentle, and he was a visionary.”

Dr. Grene is survived by his loving family and wife, Mary, who stood by his side during a difficult battle with Parkinson’s disease. He is also survived by countless patients who benefited from his work and many collaborators and coworkers who called him a friend. It’s in the same spirit of service that Saving Sight works to carry forth Dr. Grene’s vision of restoring sight.

To learn more about our history and the key individuals like Dr. Grene, who have worked to make restored vision a reality for others, visit

Champion of Sight – Downing & Lahey Funeral Home

Champion of Sight – Downing & Lahey Funeral Home

Downing and Lahey Funeral Home, located in Wichita, Kansas, has been chosen as Saving Sight’s first Champion of Sight. The Champion of Sight Award recognizes our partners who exhibit extraordinary dedication in advocating and assisting in making eye donation possible. Together, with our Champions, we truly change lives by saving sight! Champions of Sight are nominated by and voted for by our team here at Saving Sight.

Downing and Lahey Funeral Home

Our partners at Downing and Lahey Funeral Home work to help support the donation wishes of decedents and their families.

“We chose Downing and Lahey for their open communication. When I called to introduce myself, they let me know some areas of opportunity and how we could make them better. I followed up as promised by emailing their funeral home directors our commitment,” says Hospital Development Manager Kelly Falwell. We are lucky to have such great partners at Saving Sight that play a part in facilitating the eye donation process and advocating for donation, donor families and recipients in our service area. Downing and Lahey has been a great partner to Saving Sight by allowing our recovery technicians to perform recoveries in the funeral home from time to time.

Michael Morris, Funeral Director with Downing and Lahey says, “We understand the importance of donation and giving somebody the opportunity to see from somebody that’s passed away. That’s a great thing to be able to share with someone.” By working in tandem with funeral homes, we are able to honor the donor and their families’ wishes in being a donor.

Champion of Donation – Chaplain Dan Mefford

Champion of Donation – Chaplain Dan Mefford

Chaplain Dan Mefford

Dan Mefford has served as a Chaplain for Mosaic Life Care Medical Center in St. Joseph, Missouri for 30 years. “Part of my role here, as all of ours are, is to respond to all end-of-life care crises,” says Chaplain Dan. “We are a part of what they’re going through and are there for the families as well.”

At Mosaic Life Care, the chaplains also serve as the designated healthcare directive educators. When working with families about the healthcare directive, often questions about organ, eye and tissue donation and the individual’s wishes are brought up along with questions about what is available to them.

As the lead chaplain for Mosaic Life Care’s ER and ICU, Chaplain Dan is involved with both Midwest Transplant Network and Saving Sight in the donation process. “Primarily, I work with Midwest Transplant Network and then they connect us to Saving Sight for eye donation,” says Chaplain Dan.

“Our connection is really one of partnership. We have open lines of communications where we can talk to each other. We try to be the liaison to help Saving Sight and Midwest Transplant Network through the process.  We are a link between them and the family during this time. Sometimes Saving Sight might reach out to us to ask how the family is doing in their time of grief before they call the family to talk about donation. If the family asks me who Saving Sight is about a missed call, I can let them know to talk with them and that Saving Sight can help you with the donation journey.”

He adds that he values his partnership with Saving Sight and Midwest Transplant Network for a couple of reasons: “One, we couldn’t do it without them. The donation process is way beyond what we are capable of by ourselves,” he says. “Their partners are trained to have these conversations as designated requestors. Two, I also value that we are partners. They look at us as partners in this journey and ask how do we make this happen so everyone comes out ahead. Never have I felt like a pipeline in the journey either. They see us as an integral part of what they are going through and that gives me a good feeling working together.”

“Chaplain Dan is such an incredible advocate for donation,” says Darcey Ross, Hospital Development Manager at Saving Sight. “Not only for the individuals who have made the decision to donate, but he is such a source of comfort and support for the grieving family members as well.”

Chaplain Dan stresses the importance of talks about organ, eye and tissue donation before the end-of-life-care journey as well. “I think it’s very, very important. Obviously, we can’t approach anybody about donation as chaplains because we aren’t’ designated requestors – that is Midwest Transplant Network and Saving Sight’s role. But a lot of times people will ask me what I know and think about donation. I think it’s even more important before end-of-life care. It’s essential to talk to the family and make your decisions known ahead of time.”

He adds that being educated on donation and having your wishes known is vital in giving people the chance to live or see again when someone else dies.

“I’ve had friends who have received organs or tissues and are living their life now because of it. I recall one family very early in my career here. Their loved one died, and they came to me and said he was a Lion and wanted to donate. They asked, ‘how do we make that happen?’ This impressed upon me during that conversation that donation isn’t a small thing; it means a lot,” says Chaplain Dan.

“I’ve seen the lives that are changed through donation. And in the people who have donated their loved one’s tissues, their sense of helping someone else because their loved one is making a difference. It sends shivers down your spine to see how much it means to the family in their grief to donate – it’s a healing experience for those who are grieving.”

“The donation process changes a life – with eye donation, up until that point the recipient could literally be seeing darkness. For the donor family it gives them a sense that their family member is continuing to help others through the processes of life,” says Chaplain Dan.

For those families in the grief process after donation, Chaplain Dan offers comfort and support. “If the family is still here once a donation decision is made, we can reinforce that they’ve helped someone else. I see folks out in the community when it’s over and they’ll want to talk about that. It’s an affirmation for them of the gift they gave to someone else. It lets them know that there are people out there who truly are grateful for the gift they have received.”

Local Coroner Connects Families to Gift of Sight in Moments of Darkness

Local Coroner Connects Families to Gift of Sight in Moments of Darkness

Coroners and medical examiners work in difficult and often emotionally taxing situations. From doing investigative work at death scenes, conducting autopsies, and notifying the next-of-kin about a death, the job is often demanding and not fully understood by the communities these individuals serve.

Taney County Coroner, Tony Mullen

Taney County Coroner, Tony Mullen, believes that donation is one way he can bring hope to others during a time of grief.

In southwest Missouri, one county coroner has found a way to serve his community in a way that brings hope of restored sight and life to others in the darkest times of loss. Taney County Coroner, Tony Mullen, works with local eye tissue bank, Saving Sight, to offer the opportunity of eye donation. For many families, honoring their loved one’s wish to give the gift of sight through donation brings a sense of peace and hope during the hardest time of their lives.

“When you can physically see the results of donation, it’s huge,” said Mullen. “As a family member, I would feel honored if my loved one could be a donor.”

As the county coroner, Mullen is in the unique position to work with agencies like Saving Sight when a death occurs to offer donation as an option in many cases. Mullen is also committed to educating others in his local community about donation and providing resources to help others understand the process. He believes it’s crucial for an individual to make their wishes about donation known to their family.

“For many people, the only exposure they have to donation is at the DMV when they sign up,” said Mullen. “In the position that I’m in, I have the opportunity to educate others.”

Each day, Saving Sight provides the gift of sight to nine individuals through the gift of cornea donation and transplantation. Additionally, 110,000 individuals in the U.S. are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. You can make a difference in the lives of others by joining the eye, organ, and tissue donor registry at and sharing your decision with your family.