Oregon Health & Science University and the Oregon State Elks are celebrating a multi-million-dollar milestone this week that has helped treat and prevent eye disease for thousands of children throughout the region.
Since 1949, the Elks Children’s Eye Clinic at OHSU’s Casey Eye Institute has been dedicated to making children’s vision their top priority. This commitment has resulted in more than $25 million and thousands of volunteer hours, bringing sight to children who might not otherwise have experienced this most important sense.
“Over the last 64 years the Elks have played a crucial role in advancing all three of OHSU’s missions: teaching, research and patient care, for pediatric eye patients” said David Wilson, M.D., Thiele-Petti Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and director of Casey Eye Institute. “We are incredibly grateful for their sustained, loyal support.”
The partnership between the Elks and OHSU is steeped in rich history. The relationship was born in 1949, when one in every four premature babies faced possible blindness – including the two sons of Judge Robert Mulvey of the Oregon City Elks Lodge. The plight of these two infants inspired the Oregon Elks to invest in a facility and program at the University of Oregon Medical School (now OHSU) that would help prevent blindness – and benefit thousands of children for generations to come. Through this partnership, the Elks Children’s Eye Clinic became a model facility for the nation by combining patient care, education and research.
“Our long partnership with OHSU has given the Elks a tremendous sense of pride,” said Don Jensen, past state president and 50-year member of the Oregon State Elks. “It’s satisfying to know we are contributing to the amazing accomplishments that happen at OHSU every day.”
The Elks Children's Eye Clinic focuses on the entire family, providing a range of services to sighted and visually impaired children and their parents. Its programs include parent support, outreach to rural communities and county health clinics, public education and high-risk tracking and intervention. In addition to financial support, the Oregon Elks provide more than 7,500 volunteer hours at the clinic every year, equivalent to more than three full-time positions. They assist patients, work on projects for staff and provide information to the public.
The Elks contributions to OHSU over the years are too numerous to count, but here are a few examples:
- The Elks helped the clinic acquire the nation's first microscope for ocular surgery, the Northwest's first ophthalmic excimer laser and Oregon's first photokeratoscope for children.
- In 2010, Oregon Elks professor of ophthalmology Earl Palmer, M.D., led a groundbreaking national study that established an effective process for diagnosing and treating retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), the eye disease that blinded Judge Mulvey’s two sons.
- Today, the visual program of the Oregon State Elks Association contributes more than $2 million annually to the Elks Children's Eye Clinic. Faculty and staff at the clinic are nationally renowned for their patient care and research. Every year, the clinic provides more than 17,000 pediatric patient visits, performs 750 surgeries and supplies glasses to children in need.
- The Elks Children’s Eye Clinic has also led the way in public health, establishing a successful preschool eye-screening program, a sound preventive measure that the Oregon Legislature recently made a requirement for all children entering school beginning in 2014.
- The Elks have also funded up-to-date equipment for the pediatric ophthalmology examination room at OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital, staffed by faculty from the Elks Children's Eye Clinic.
“The Oregon Elks have been tremendously generous, providing millions of dollars and thousands of volunteer hours over the decades,” said Joe Robertson, M.D., M.B.A., president of OHSU. “Sixty-four years ago they made it their priority to bring vision services to children who might not otherwise have access. As we celebrate the $25 million milestone, we can say with confidence that their investment has paid off for children in Oregon and all over the world.”