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Release: April 25, 2002  

Gov. Vilsack to attend Iowa Lions Eye Bank Open House

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack's staff announced today that Vilsack will attend the Iowa Lions Eye Bank open house event at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 27. The Iowa Lions Eye Bank moved last Dec. 18th from its original location in University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics to its new location at 2346 Mormon Trek Blvd. in Iowa City.

"Our program has grown tremendously over the years and our new location will help accommodate our needs for expanded space and additional staff members," said Pat Mason, executive director of the Eye Bank. "We will, of course, continue our close affiliation with UI Hospitals and Clinics in serving the needs of patients."

The Iowa Lions, in association with the UI's Department of Ophthalmology under Alson E. Braley, M.D., established the Iowa Lions Eye Bank in 1955. Now, approximately 400 Lions and Lioness Clubs in Iowa help support the Iowa Lions Eye Bank through volunteerism and fundraising. The nearly 13,000 Lions and Lioness club members play a vital role in the success of the Eye Bank.

Another vital volunteer link in the mission of the Eye Bank is the Iowa State Patrol. Troopers have transported donor eyes to the Eye Bank since its inception.

In 1999, eye bank technicians began traveling to hospitals within a 60-mile radius of Iowa City to recover corneal tissue from donated eyes. This process allows the cornea to be immediately preserved for transplantation, increasing the viability and quality of the tissue. In 2001, this recovery travel area was extended to all of eastern Iowa.

The Iowa Lions Eye Bank reported a record year in 2001, with 1,445 donor eyes received and 840 corneas provided for transplant. Of that total, 284 Iowans and 280 patients elsewhere in the United States received corneal transplants, while 276 corneas were provided internationally for transplant. Since 1961, eye banks nationwide have made possible more than 700,000 sight-restoring corneal transplants, and the Iowa Lions Eye Bank provided tissue for 8,554 such transplants in that period.                                                                       

The Iowa Lions Eye Bank also plays a central role in research. In 2001, the bank provided 368 donated eyes to the world-renowned UI Center for Macular Degeneration to study age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is the leading cause of blindness in developed nations. The Iowa Lions Eye Bank is also among 32 eye banks in the United States participating in a five-year study of the potential viability of accepting older adults as eye donors.

The Iowa Lions Eye Bank is an accredited charter member of the Eye Bank Association of America and is inspected every three years to ensure quality control and adherence to strict medical standards. In addition, the Iowa Lions Eye Bank is one of only 14 U.S. eye banks belonging to Vision Share, a national leader in the eye banking community, dedicated to promoting the highest possible standards for donor tissue, quality and donor screening.

For more information about the Iowa Lions Eye Bank open house event, contact Pat Mason at (319) 356-2871.  

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at