A History of the Partnership between the Lions Medical Eye Bank & Sentara Norfolk General Hospital
The partnership between Sentara Norfolk General Hospital the Lions Medical Eye Bank goes back decades, to an office in Royster Hall at what was then Norfolk General Hospital. The Lions Medical Eye Bank has been proud to support Sentara Health Care by providing patient care, post mortem services, and even monetarily sponsoring the purchase of the Nightingale Regional Air Ambulance, which celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2022!
In 1978 because of the increasing need for donor eye tissue for transplant surgeries at Norfolk General Hospital, the Lions of District 24-D (now 24-I) voted to establish an independent eye bank in Norfolk, Virginia. In 1979 the Lions Medical Eye Bank and Research Center of Eastern Virginia became incorporated as an IRC 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Under the leadership of its first Executive Director, Lion Edward “Moon” Kosjer, and Medical Director, Bruce I. Bodner, MD, the Lions Medical Eye Bank quickly established itself as a provider of safe, quality transplant eye tissue to the Hampton Roads region. Originally located in the same offices as the Virginia Tissue Bank, now LifeNet Health, the Lions Medical Eye Bank worked out of Royster Hall in Norfolk General Hospital for nearly a decade.
In 1986 the District 24-D Lions Charity Foundation approached Norfolk General Hospital about a joint venture to build a full vision facility, the “Lions Sight and Hearing Center.” Funding the over $800,000 project, the Lions Charity Foundation is another integral part of our partnership with Sentara. With full support from Howard Kern, former president of Sentara Healthcare, and the Sentara Board of Directors, Sentara committed to a cooperative partnership that would fund the project and provide future housing for the Lions Medical Eye Bank. The full center was dedicated in early 1987, housing the Lions Center for Sight and Hearing and the Lions Medical Eye Bank within the Sentara Norfolk General facilities. Today the Lions continue to support the Lions Sight Center by helping fund new and improved equipment needs. Sentara and the District 24-D Lions Clubs innovative idea to house their eye bank within hospital facilities has helped the Lions Medical Eye Bank be a model for other eye banks in the US and around the world.
In 1993, the Lions Medical Eye Bank was the first occupant to move into the newly opened River Pavilion. It eventually became apparent, however, that there was a need for a tissue processing room which could better handle the needs for donated ocular tissue. In 2008, Sentara Norfolk General Hospital offered a larger space to the Lions Medical Eye Bank. In 2009, after having raised over $1.2 million dollars to design, demo and reconstruct the space, the eye bank moved into their new facility. The current space was designed by Lions Medical Eye Bank Executive Director David Korroch. The current eye bank features a positively pressured HEPA filtered processing room. Thanks to support from Sentara Norfolk General, the Lions Medical Eye Bank and Research Center of Eastern Virginia was the first eye bank in the world to have an OR quality processing room. Surgeons and other professional eye bankers from around the world regularly tour the Lions Medical Eye Bank’s state of the art facility to model their home eye banks. Eye banks in the Philippines, Europe, Australia, China, and many in the US have borrowed elements of our design and methodologies.
The Lions Medical Eye Bank shows its leadership in ophthalmology and in eye banking in many ways. The eye bank is accredited by the Eye Bank Association of America and is registered with, and inspected by, the US Food and Drug Administration (under title 21 CFR 1271). The eye bank Executive Director, David Korroch, is a past Chairman of the Eye Bank Association of America, and the Lions Medical Eye Bank is the only eye bank to have two recipients (Mr. Korroch, and Mr. Brian Philippy, Director of Transplant & Research) of the highest recognition in eye banking, the Leonard Heise Award, for outstanding contributions to the profession. Mr. Korroch and Mr. Philippy are routinely asked to advise other eye banks and to speak at professional conferences and seminars on technical and administrative issues.
The Lions Medical Eye Bank provides transplant tissue to corneal surgeons across the Hampton Roads area and around the world. Partnerships with surgeons and eye banks have resulted in our having restored sight to over 28,000 transplant recipients.
As a part of our commitment to the recipients of eye tissue, the Lions Medical Eye Bank provides Eye Prep Kits to all area hospitals at no charge. This is another innovation that is the only one of its kind in the world. These kits help preserve the integrity of the corneal epithelium to encourage a better patient outcome.
With continued support from Sentara, the Lions Medical Eye Bank is also able to provide tissue for research and training to professors, students, and ophthalmology residents at Eastern Virginia Medical School. Additionally, hospital in-service education which meets the continuing education requirements of many professional accrediting bodies is provided for free to all area hospitals by the Lions Medical Eye Bank.
The Lions Medical Eye Bank continues to thrive on the second floor of the Kaufman Pavilion, allowing for quality patient care, and lasting and measurable outcomes in the Tidewater community. Tissue donors who give the Gift of Sight to waiting transplant recipients restore sight to their neighbors in the Hampton Roads community and beyond.
The Lions Medical Eye Bank and Research Center of Eastern Virginia looks forward to continued success in eye banking through support from all of our partners globally, and gives special thanks for the continued support of Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.