News Release

June 7, 2004

Contact: Patrick Keefe, 860-679-2447

Lions Donations Upgrades Health Center Eye Research

FARMINGTON, CONN. – Connecticut Lions International have put their money where our eyesight is.

Connecticut Lions Club International Foundation and the Connecticut Lions Eye Research Foundation have pledged $125,000 each to the University of Connecticut Health Center to underwrite eye research.

The funds will be used to upgrade vascular eye research and begin a new Connecticut Lions Vascular Eye Center at the Health Center.

Newer cameras of 6,000 pixel density can capture the finest details of retinal and optic nerve blood vessels. Seeing their state in high resolution can be a valuable new diagnostic tool for ophthalmologists and other specialists.

“We’re very honored to be selected for this award,” said James O’Rourke, M.D., professor of pathology, director of the Health Center’s Lions Eye Vision Center and a specialist in eye research. “We’ve established a record of progress in vascular research and this award will enable us to enlarge our capabilities. The good people of the Lions represent 156 clubs in Connecticut and they’re the backbone of raising funds through a variety of community activities and initiatives. We’re very grateful to them for their hard work, generosity and public spirit.”

Earlier diagnosis of small blood vessel damage is important in a variety of illnesses and conditions. It allows earlier medical intervention which can often prevent a problem from becoming far worse. This is particularly so in the eyes, where conditions like diabetes and macular degeneration manifest themselves as symptoms years before they reach their terminal stage, blindness.

The new laboratory and clinical equipment will be used for small blood vessel studies. Many blood vessels, for instance those that serve the optic nerve in a glaucoma patient, have basic damage associated with them. Visualizing these tiny damaged blood vessels can allow specialists to demonstrate to referring physicians that small vessel damage has already occurred in medical diseases they are treating.

Certain blood conditions such as diabetes and hypertension cause damage to the retinal vessels which the upgraded equipment is capable of detecting earlier. Once detected, treatment may be initiated and continued observation by specialists can determine if the treatment is working and the condition is improving or regressing.

The research at the Health Center the Lions have supported and the equipment their grants have purchased have aided materially in our understanding of visual disorders.

The present gift caps a 30-year association between the Connecticut Lions and the Health Center and Dr. O’Rourke. The gift will help establish the Connecticut Lions Vascular Eye Center at the Health Center, a complement to the already-existing Lions Eye Vision Center.

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