Wichita, Kan. (June 1, 2021) – Two Kansas-based eye banks have partnered, increasing their impact to save sight in communities throughout the state and beyond. As of June 1, Saving Sight and the Kansas Eye Bank & Cornea Research Center, Inc. have integrated operations and now operate a Wichita location as Kansas Eye Bank, a division of Saving Sight.
This partnership brings together two nonprofit organizations with a rich history of serving the community, ocular transplant physicians, vision researchers, and area hospitals. The two organizations have a shared mission to restore vision to individuals needing a corneal transplant while also fulfilling the wishes of Kansans to become eye tissue donors upon passing.
“We’re excited about what this new partnership means in providing sight to even more people across Kansas, the Midwest, and beyond,” said Tony Bavuso, CEO of Saving Sight.
Saving Sight provides donated corneal tissue for transplant, restoring sight to approximately 8 individuals each day. The addition of the Kansas Eye Bank’s Wichita facility to the Saving Sight system will add new donor hospitals to its network, setting the stage to increase the number of tissues the nonprofit provides to physicians for transplantation. Additionally, the new partnership will allow Saving Sight to expand its efforts in supporting the choice of eye donors and their families to leave a legacy through eye tissue donation.
Saving Sight currently operates four other facilities apart from its headquarters in Kansas City, Mo., including locations in St. Louis, Columbia, Mo., Springfield, Mo., and Springfield, Ill.
About Saving Sight
Saving Sight is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a mission to change lives by saving sight. Founded in 1960, Saving Sight has grown to become one of the nation’s leading eye banks and is focused on providing innovative solutions to its clinical partners. Headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., Saving Sight facilitates eye donation in Missouri, Kansas, and Illinois, impacting the lives of those both near and far through transplantation.
For so many around the world and in the U.S., 2020 put the human spirit and resilience to the test. As part of our nation’s healthcare system and partner with hundreds of donor hospitals, Saving Sight was called to rise up to the need of helping others during this challenging and unprecedented time. As result of our hard work and care for our community, we were able to provide a huge impact in quality of life for others by facilitating the gift of restored vision.
Read more in our 2020 Impact Report below about the stories of those we were able to help last year.
Joseph Tauber, MD, presented on the use of serum tears in March
On Wednesday, March 3, ophthalmologist and Saving Sight Medical Director, Joseph Tauber, MD, presented on using serum tears therapy in ocular surface disease. The webinar was hosted by Vital Tears, an organization that offers autologous serum tears to eye care professionals and their patients throughout the nation. Saving Sight is a co-founder of Vital Tears, and processes all orders for the serum tears in its laboratory.
Dr. Tauber has an in-depth understanding of the use of serum tears in patients with ocular surface disease, as he was an early adopter of using Vital Tears in his practice. During the webinar Dr. Tauber shared insights into how serum tears fit into a treatment plan for dry eye disease, as well how Vital Tears has simplified the process for patients and physicians.
In addition to serving as Saving Sight’s medical director, Dr. Tauber is a recognized authority in the field of ocular surface diseases, including dry eye. Avidly involved in research for almost three decades, Dr. Tauber has been a principal investigator in over 125 research studies of high-risk corneal transplantation, inflammation and allergic eye diseases, corneal infectious diseases and numerous studies related to dry eye syndrome.
If you’re interested in learning more about the innovative approach that Vital Tears is taking in partnership with Saving Sight to restore sight, visit www.vitaltears.org.
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, 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 registerme.org and sharing your decision with your family.
The Missouri Lions have given their volunteer, financial, and board support to our programs since 1960. Because of their support, Saving Sight is able to change more lives by saving sight each and every day. The Saving Sight Board of Directors is comprised of several key Lion members. Their leadership and expertise has helped the eye bank grow and evolve throughout the last 60 years and continues to move us forward into the future.
Read why Pat Martchink, Board President, and Larry Boettcher, Board Vice-President, find serving on Saving Sight’s Board to be impactful.
How long have you served on the Saving Sight Board and in what roles? I am in my fifth year on the Board. One year as a member, one year as Secretary, and now in my third year as President.
Why is it impactful for you to serve on the Saving Sight Board? I have worked professionally in nonprofits for more than 35 years and I believe it is a noble cause. My father was blind for a part of his life so I understand the importance of Saving Sight’s mission. I believe in the idea of “service” and being a part of Saving Sight helps me to fulfill that idea.
How does the Board function to support Saving Sight’s mission to change lives by saving sight? The Board helps to provide the “big picture” for the agency and then supports management to move the agency in that direction.
How have things evolved since you first became connected with Saving Sight? I believe the Board has grown stronger in its support of the Saving Sight leadership. The Board wants Saving Sight to be progressive due to the competition of other eye banks and the for-profit entities businesses that have similar interests.
Is there anything else about your experience as a board member or about Saving Sight you’d like to mention? I am thoroughly impressed by the work ethics of the entire Saving Sight Staff. They work hard and are truly dedicated to the mission of the organization.
Pat Martchink, Board President
Lions District 26 M-2
How long have you served on the Saving Sight Board and in what roles? This is the beginning of my third year of my first term as a Board member elected to serve Saving Sight from my Lions District 26-M4. Prior to this term I was appointed by the Council of Governors for Missouri Multiple District 26 to serve as a Board member in my Lions capacity as the Vice-Council Chair for one year, and as Council Chair for the second year. I have served as the Board Vice-President for the past two years and I was elected by the board for the current year starting July 1, 2020. This is the beginning of my fourth year on the Executive Committee which meets once a month. Last year, and again this year, I have been appointed to serve on the Finance Committee which meets quarterly or as needed ahead of the Board Meetings.
Why is it impactful for you to serve on the Saving Sight Board? I believe my prior leadership positions that I have held in the Lions Organization along with my formal education, management training and seminars through Lions International, and my 21 year career in management, I bring all of that knowledge and skill set to this Board. One of the things I am known for on the Board is knowing our By-Laws and making sure our decisions follow those set guidelines. I always have my copy of our Board Handbook ready for review at any time, whether it is during a committee meeting or during the Board meetings.
How does the Board function to support Saving Sight’s mission to change lives by saving sight? First, the Board as a Governance Policy that has the guidelines for the Board and for the CEO for the overall operation of the organization. This allows the day to day operation of the organization to go on without constant Board involvement. Second, the Board is responsible for actively participating in long-range planning for the organization along with determining the programs and services provided. As a Board we have to be progressive and always looking to the future for the overall success of the organization. An example is Vital Tears, in 2016 the Board approved the initial investment into creating that joint venture. They did this because they recognized with the Leadership at Saving Sight that there is a growing need for a solution for patients with chronic dry eye that can’t get relief from what was currently available. That part of our business is thriving and growing at an increasing pace. We have to continue to look for the next possibility, do our due diligence with our collaboration with Saving Sight leadership to continue the growth and sustainability of our organization.
How have things evolved since you first became connected with Saving Sight? We have tried to recruit Lions and community members that bring a different perspective to the organization, and a true willingness to serve. We have brought the Board and Saving Sight leadership closer together in our working relationship by taking the effort to fellowship with one another after our meetings and spend time getting to truly know each other. We have focused on Board training including a new On-Boarding program that I developed for our newest board members each year. We have found that by covering all of the information ahead of their first Board meeting we have been able to use our time together in the Board meeting to focus on what needs to be done, rather than answering questions over and over each year.
Historically, how have the Missouri Lions supported Saving Sight? Individual Lions and Individual Lions Clubs have donated money over the years to support the mission. When Saving Sight handled recycled eye-glasses the Lions of Missouri collected the glasses in their locations and brought them to Saving Sight for distribution in third world countries. When Saving Sight controlled the KidSight program the Lions of Missouri volunteered their time and money to support that program. The proceeds from the Missouri Lions All-Star Football game each year was donated to Saving Sight. Over the years the Districts in Missouri and the Multiple District raised money for matching grants through Lions Clubs International Foundation to purchase equipment for the labs.
Is there anything else about your experience as a board member or about Saving Sight you’d like to mention? I can honestly say that I enjoy serving on this board. This isn’t a mundane meeting that you just dread going to, because what we do does make a difference and has a profound impact on our communities. Not only for our employees, but for all of those patients that have restored eye sight or relief from their dry eye. I believe in what we do so much I personally support the organization through monthly giving.
With fewer public gatherings for firework displays this Fourth of July holiday due to COVID-19, many health experts expect that more individuals will purchase and light fireworks for their own personal use this weekend. While fireworks are a beautiful and time-honored tradition associated with the holiday, it’s important that you take precautions to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that there are 9,000 fireworks-related injuries each year in the U.S. Thirty percent of those are eye injuries, and one-fourth of those eye injuries result in blindness. What’s more, children account for the majority of fireworks-injury victims, and for children under 5, sparklers — which burn at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and can cause third-degree burns — account for one-third of fireworks-related injuries.
For these reasons, the American Academy of Ophthalmology encourages you to follow these recommendations:
Never let children play with fireworks of any type.
View fireworks from a safe distance: at least 500 feet away, or up to a quarter of a mile for best viewing.
Leave the lighting of fireworks to trained professionals.
Follow directives given by event ushers and public safety personnel.
Respect safety barriers set up to allow pyrotechnicians to do their jobs safely.
If you find unexploded fireworks remains, do not touch them. Immediately contact your local fire or police department.
If you get an eye injury from fireworks, seek medical help immediately.
If you do decide to shoot off fireworks yourself, be sure to follow all safety precautions, protect your eyes, and keep children a safe distance away. The staff at Saving Sight wishes you a safe and fun-filled Independence Day weekend.
Sources: EyeSmart and the American Academy of Ophthalmology.