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Lions Low Vision Center announced at Health Science Center

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA) and the International Association of Lions Clubs today announced the establishment of a Lions Low Vision Center - a research, education and patient care resource for the thousands of South Texans whose visual impairments prohibit activities of daily living such as self-care and enjoying a newspaper.

The new center is expected to serve hundreds of patients per year and see an increasing workload as more people reach 65 and incidence of diabetes-related eye diseases continues to rise. Lions Clubs International presented a $200,000 check to Texas Lions to fund the center.

"The Lions Low Vision Center is the beginning of an answer to the critical need for clinical low-vision services and research, and the development of rehabilitative methods and technology," said Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., UTHSCSA president. "Along with our partners, the Lions, we are committed to helping people with low vision manage the tasks of daily living and increase their overall quality of life."

Dr. Cigarroa welcomed Kay K. Fukushima, Lions Clubs International president, to the Health Science Center for the announcement. Fukushima, a 37-year Lion from Sacramento, Calif., recently was installed as international president.

Lions Low Vision Center faculty will study the best ways to provide rehabilitation for persons with low vision. They will deliver high-quality education and training to future health care professionals who will work with low-vision patients.

The center also will serve as a liaison with the community. "We have a large geriatric population, yet we receive relatively few referrals for low vision," said Center Director Sandra M. Fox, O.D., clinical instructor in the department of ophthalmology. "Health care providers may be unaware that these services exist."

The center will accept referrals from health providers. "We do not like to initiate vision rehabilitation unless the patient has been seen by their eye doctor within the past year," Dr. Fox said. "Even if they have been seen, we still contact the doctor's office to be sure the vision is stable. If a patient 'self-refers,' we will get in touch with his eye doctor before proceeding with vision rehabilitation."

In addressing the needs of persons with vision loss, occupational therapy practitioners focus on increasing the person's level of independence in occupations or activities of daily living that have been compromised by the visual impairment. Areas commonly affected by vision loss include self-care, meal planning and safe meal preparation, eating, medicine management and administration, financial management and community integration, among other areas.

"Occupational therapists teach persons with vision loss to use remaining vision as efficiently as possible to complete activities," said Yolanda Cate, adjunct assistant professor of occupational therapy and a faculty member in the center. "We also modify activities so that clients can complete them with less vision, modify environments to facilitate independence, and train persons in the use of adaptive equipment or other sensory systems to compensate for vision loss."

"This is a wonderful example of interdisciplinary collaboration," said Steven A. Wartman, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president for academic and health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. "A true team approach is a necessity to ensure optimal care for patients with the difficult problem of low vision."

Marilyn S. Harrington, Ph.D., dean of the School of Allied Health Sciences, congratulated Health Science Center faculty and Lions Clubs members. "Yolanda Cate is an occupational therapist with advanced skill in visual rehabilitation and diabetes education," Dr. Harrington said. "One of the major public health goals for the U.S. population as stated in Healthy People 2010 is to 'increase the use of rehabilitation services and adaptive devices by persons with visual impairment.' The Lions Low Vision Center addresses this goal for people in South Texas."

Jim Wheeler, president and chief operating officer of the Lions Sight Research Foundation, said: "The members of Lions District 2-A2, which encompasses the region from San Antonio to Kerrville to Del Rio to Laredo, have provided generous support for the Lions Low Vision Center. The Lions of Texas have embraced the creation of the Lions Low Vision Center. With generous financial support from the Lions Clubs International Foundation and the cooperation of the Health Science Center, the project is becoming a reality. The Lions Low Vision Center is destined to become a center of excellence for the Health Science Center and for San Antonio and Texas."

Bob and Claire Daves shared the story of how macular degeneration robbed him of his sight within four months. "I went from good shape to legally blind," he said. "My eye doctor sent me to see Dr. Fox at the Health Science Center. She showed me I could use my peripheral vision to learn to read and recognize objects, and she gave me eye exercises to do." Mr. Daves also is diabetic; Cate showed him how to use his remaining vision to do a finger stick and to utilize a "talking" glucometer to measure his glucose level. He also uses a special insulin injector.

Note: Digital images from the announcement are available by calling (210) 567-2570.

Contacts: Will Sansom