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Opchat Magazine Charity PageCharity News, October to December 2017



Lansdowne club hosts Visioncare for Homeless People dinner.
Heidelberg engineering’s Spectralis has a leading role in cancer care.
Louis Stone assists in Students fundraising and practical help on two continents.
AAO makes donation in Honour of 2017 Brien Holden Humanitarian Awardee
Crisis at Christmas 2017 Calls For Volunteers.

Lansdowne club hosts Visioncare for Homeless People dinner.

November 2017

Volunteers, trustees, and supporters of Vision Care for Homeless People gathered in London last week for the launch of The Homeless Eye Health Alliance to improve access to eye health for those most in need. The charity stated its objective is to raise access to eyecare for at least 40% of homeless people by 2020 in England, increasing from the 9% believed to be receiving the charity’s services currently.

The dinner was held at London’s Lansdowne Club, and cemented the bond between the charity, Thomas Pocklington Trust, Pathway Healthcare and the Optical Confederation.

Welcoming everyone to the event was VCHP Patron Ben Miles who drew on his TV and drama experiences of realising the life of London’s destitute in Tudor times, through his role of Wolf Hall, was little different and still as dangerous for many people in 2017.

Generously supported by Dame Mary Perkins, the dinner brought together volunteers, trustees and supporters who together raised in excess of £4,000 during the evening.

Syed Kamall MEP for London, praised the work of the charity and urged a greater culture of social responsibility and volunteers taking a lead for setting up initiatives such as VCHP.

VCHP is a registered charity founded 14 years ago, emerging from a Crisis at Christmas service to now run clinics in London, Leeds, Birmingham, Exeter, Brighton and Manchester.

Elaine Styles, Chair of the charity, explained,“Sadly there is a growing problem with homelessness in the UK and we are in a strong position to do something about the visual needs of this vulnerable group of people. We are always looking for volunteers and supporters. I do hope that we will attract a new group of supporters during 2018.”

Picture Credit: Double Vision by Shine Gonzalvez (an optometrist in Stockwell)

Heidelberg engineering’s Spectralis has a leading role in cancer care.

November 2017

Heidelberg Engineering’s SPECTRALIS OCT has been given a leading role in a new cancer care unit for the north-east, funded by the late Sir Bobby Robson’s Foundation.

Elsie Robson and son

The former England Football Manager, and star player, left a legacy which is helping to fund care within the Ophthalmology Clinical Trial Evaluation Suite at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary.

It is playing a crucial role in assessing the eye health of patients undergoing trials of cancer drugs at the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre, with results expected to benefit patients internationally.

The SPECTRALIS and a visual field analyser are being used by Consultant Medical Ophthalmologist, Dr Will Innes, and his team to monitor patients being treated with innovative small molecule anti-cancer drugs, designed to disrupt very specific cancer cells.

Dr Innes explained,“Professor Plummer’s* team at the Sir Bobby Robson Centre is working with a new generation of cancer drugs which are incredibly powerful and a significant step forward in treatment. With these drugs, the eye is ‘an organ at risk’ because some of the proteins and receptors that are targeted in cancer cells are also present in the eye. It is essential that we closely monitor eye health during treatment and, with this equipment, we can do that."

“Before we had this dedicated evaluation suite patients had to visit separate areas of the hospital to have their eyes assessed, in some cases, on a weekly basis. For anyone who is unwell, and especially for patients who are struggling to breathe because of cancer, it was very difficult to complete the eye checks necessary.”

The SPECTRALIS generates extremely high resolution images of the inside of the eye using coloured lasers that scan the retina up to 60,000 times per second. This creates ‘image slices,’ which are stacked to form 3D images of the retina and provide detailed maps of individual retinal layers.

Dr Innes added: “We have the same OCT system that is on board the International Space Station, monitoring the vision of astronauts, which gives you an idea of how advanced this equipment is.”

A separate system, which was already in place at the RVI, records electrical signals from the eye, optic nerve and brain in response to visual stimuli. Responses are altered in a variety of ways by disease processes and drug toxicity, which affect the retina, optic nerve and higher visual pathways.

All this information, along with the visual field analysis, produces what Dr Innes describes as an “exquisitely detailed” picture of the eye’s structure and function, allowing oncologists to react very quickly to changes. This surveillance enables patients to continue with therapy that, without appropriate monitoring, might be risky.

Wayne Patterson “Oncologists are traditionally trained to deal with treatment side effects, such as hair loss, mouth and bowel problems and the dropping of white blood cell counts. With these new treatments ophthalmology is now also an essential element of monitoring.”

Sir Bobby’s widow, Lady Elsie and son, Andrew Robson, plus Widnes Viking Director Brian O’Connor (pictured) were fascinated to see the detail produced by the new eye evaluation technology.

“This marvellous new equipment will help push forward new drug trials and also make things easier for cancer patients. We’re very proud to have been able to fund it,” said Lady Elsie.

Sir Bobby Robson launched his Foundation in 2008 and it has raised over £11 million to find more effective ways to detect and treat cancer. Working within the NHS, and in collaboration with Newcastle University, it relies completely on volunteer fundraisers and public generosity.

*Professor Ruth Plummer, Director of the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Research Trials Centre, was Sir Bobby’s oncologist, is a Trustee of the Foundation and Lead of the Cancer Research UK Centre at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research in Newcastle.

Over 600 new patients were enrolled on clinical trials at the centre in the last year alone and there has been a year on year increase in the number of clinical trials open to recruitment. Staffing in the centre has risen from 27 when it opened to 51 and further developments are planned.

Picture above show: Dr Will Innes (left) with Lady Elsie Robson, + centre, Brian O’Connor of Widnes Vikings

At the SPECTRALIS is Brian O’Connor of Widnes Vikings with Wayne Patterson, Senior Clinical Technologist

Louis Stone assists in Students fundraising and practical help on two continents.

November 2017

Testing in Malawi

Cardiff University students fundraise for Malawi

A group from Cardiff University recently took on a charity project in Malawi to help test the eyes of the population in need.

They fundraised and were provided cross cyls and a half eye trial frame (picture 1) from Louis Stone for the initiative.


Ulster's Optometry Students took part in World Sight Day fundraiser.

World Sight Day
Optometry students at Ulster University took part in a 5km walk/run for World Sight Day on Wednesday 18th October.

This event helped to raise awareness of vision among staff and students at the University as part of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness’s ‘Make Vision Count’ campaign.

£500 was raised during this event which will be donated to SeeBallymena, a charity which provides eye care to homeless and financially disadvantaged people living in Northern Ireland.

"We would like to especially thank Louis Stone for donating £25 to this cause."said Emma McConnell, a research associate, at Ulster University,

AAO makes donation in Honour of 2017 Brien Holden Humanitarian Awardee

November 2017

The American Academy of Optometry is pleased to announce a $5,000 donation has been made to VOSH/International in honour of C. Ellis Potter, OD, FAAO, the 2017 inaugural recipient of the Brien Holden Humanitarian Award. Dr. Potter was recognized at the Academy 2017 Chicago Awards Ceremony on Friday, October 13, 2017.

The Brien Holden Humanitarian Award honors the memory and work of Professor Brien Holden, PhD, DSc, FAAO. This award recognizes an individual or organization who has made significant contributions to improve eye care within a country or region. In particular, the award acknowledges humanitarian efforts in the non-profit sector that build or support the development of sustainable eye care systems in developing communities. The Academy annually makes a $5,000 donation to the charity or cause of the awardee’s choice.

“The American Academy of Optometry has paid me the highest compliment with the Brien Holden Humanitarian Award. I in turn want to express my appreciation to the late Professor Brien Holden, and thank the Brien Holden Vision Institute, for educating, inspiring and motivating many to the cause of avoidable blindness. Additionally, my thanks go to the many non-profits, partners and individuals that have joined and supported sustainable eye care causes,” said Dr. Potter.

Dr. Potter was recognized for this award due to his lifetime record of humanitarianism and long and distinguished career with VOSH/International where he played a big role in helping the organization evolve from its original model that provided care in week long clinic trips to developing countries to a model that works with local optometry and health care organizations to create sustainable models. Dr. Potter, an Academy Emeritus Fellow, also holds the distinction of being a Diplomate and served as Chair of the Academy’s Comprehensive Eye Care Section. He was also awarded the VOSH/International Dr. Harry I. Zelter Lifetime Achievement Award at the VOSH/International annual meeting in Chicago in October 2017.

The Brien Holden Humanitarian Award, established by the Brien Holden Vision Institute and Holden family estate, will be awarded annually. Nominations for 2018 should include two letters of nomination from Academy Fellows and a CV of the nominee.

Crisis at Christmas 2017 Calls For Volunteers.

October 2017

Styles, Brandi and PaulThe optical service of Crisis at Christmas is looking for keen volunteers to make the clinics as successful as last year. During the seven days of clinics hundreds of homeless people come to have their eyes examined and last year 289 pairs of specs were dispensed and 22 referrals made to hospital for further investigations.

Vision Care for Homeless People, which has been running the service in conjunction with Crisis for 14 years, is also looking for donations of domiciliary kit that can be used at the various London centres.

Elaine Styles, Chair of VCHP, explained “Each Christmas, the generous optical industry comes to our aid, lending us domiciliary testing equipment, donating frames and supplies and glazing spectacles. This December we are looking to provide a comprehensive service for what is, sadly, a growing homeless population in our capital.”

The temporary London clinics are under the umbrella of broader healthcare services provided by Crisis in a caring, warm, environment which offers companionship and hot meals.

Some six teams of volunteers each day will visit the various Crisis at Christmas centres for homeless people across London to test eyes and prescribe glasses. Ophthalmologists, optometrists, dispensing opticians, optical assistants and optometry students can all volunteer here.

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