Events happen fast in eye banking--corneal tissue is donated, procured, evaluated, processed, preserved, matched, delivered, and transplanted in as little as a day. Into this process go years of work--not only by the surgeons carrying out sight-saving procedures, but also by eye banking leaders who have built a reliable, efficient system to speed corneal tissue from procurement to placement all over the world, every day.
The largest of these eye bank networks is the non-profit, Vision Share, which offers eye tissue, eye banking expertise, education, and industry leadership in the United States and abroad.
Today, the organization is entering a time of industry-driven expansion. A new headquarters in downtown Chicago is surrounded by world-class, health-care institutions and universities. A growing staff is joined by its new president and chief executive officer, Philip Waitzman, MBA, MPH, MA, who is already working to expand capabilities aimed at making a “positive, meaningful impact in the ophthalmic community and focused on maintaining the integrity of the industry.”
During this period of change, its leaders continue to view the organization’s role as a world leader in eye banking. It is an honor, they say, to perform the behind-the-scenes work needed to make that one-day transition from donor to recipient, from blindness to sight. They continue to build on the organization’s 20-year commitment to eye banking through a set of carefully considered goals.
Building a Network
Eye banks can accomplish more together than alone. The organization has worked to build the largest network of non-profit eye banks in the world, with 13 members and 20 eye banks in the United States and a vast network of providers at home and abroad. Member organizations provide the expertise in recovery and preparation, while the organization offers an easy- to-use, yet sophisticated distribution network.
Together, the network and its members are able to meet local, national, and international eye tissue needs. In fact, the organization’s eye banks provide more than one-half the supply of donor corneas in the United States with more than 20,000 placements in 2016 alone.
Because the United States has more donor tissue than it requires for transplant procedures, the organization’s network reaches beyond borders to coordinate with domestic and international eye banks and surgeons to distribute donor corneas around the world. The non-profit’s efforts to raise transplant awareness and ophthalmic clinical competencies through collaboration with industry partners extend globally as well.
For the patients of Prof. Mohammed Belmekki, ophthalmologist at the Cheikh Zaid Hospital, Rabat, Morocco, the organization’s international outreach has made a marked improvement.
“In the past, my patients who needed corneal transplant surgery faced long waits of 6 to 12 months as we worked to obtain the necessary tissue,” Dr. Belmekki said.
“Since I began working with Vision Share last August, we have reduced that wait to under 4 months, and we have fewer patients on the waiting list,” he said. “We hope to reach a 1-month delay.”