District 2-A2 Lions Sight Research Foundation, Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio support low vision center upgrade

SAN ANTONIO (Jan. 10, 2013) — Thanks to two generous gifts, patients who live with limited eyesight are receiving greater services in the expanded Lions Low Vision Rehabilitation Center at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

The center is at the university’s Greehey Academic and Research Campus in the Research & Administration Building, 8403 Floyd Curl Drive. This past year, thanks to the Lions of Lions Clubs International District 2-A2, the center was expanded and underwent remodeling that was vital to improving the level of patient care provided by UT Medicine San Antonio optometrist Sandra Fox, O.D., center director, and her staff. To help fund the program, additional financial support was procured from the Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio by the Lions.

The District 2-A2 Lions Sight Research Foundation has worked closely with the Department of Ophthalmology at the Health Science Center for many years. Gifts from the Lions inaugurated the low vision center in 2003, as well as the Lions Sight Research Center in the Department of Ophthalmology. The Lions Sight Research Center was established in 1990. Multiple international presidents of the Lions have visited the campus.

Baptist Health Foundation joined in community partnership

“Realizing the importance of upgrading and expanding the Lions Low Vision Rehabilitation Center, we formulated a plan and approached the Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio to join us in a community partnership to accomplish our goals,” said Jim Wheeler, president and chief operating officer of the Lions Sight Research Foundation. “They quickly embraced the program and matched funds pledged by the Lions. As a result, the Lions sponsored the remodeling and expansion, and the Baptist Health Foundation funds were used to procure needed medical equipment and instruments.”

In September, a second UT Medicine optometrist, Melanie Gonzalez, O.D., began seeing patients at the center. This would not have been possible if not for the renovations, Dr. Fox said. UT Medicine is the clinical practice of the School of Medicine at the Health Science Center.

An additional exam lane maximizes efficiency and improves the training experience of residents in the Department of Ophthalmology. “There is now space for the residents to perform low-vision evaluations instead of just observing,” said Dr. Fox, an assistant professor of ophthalmology who occupies the Nancy Smith Hurd Endowed Chair for Low Vision Research.

Helping people through technology

Expansion of an “activities of daily living” area has allowed for the purchase of additional technology from a private donor for demonstrations and training for patients with vision impairment.

“Technology is the key to allowing those with vision impairment to excel in school, further their education and remain employed,” Dr. Fox said. “Needs change rapidly, and keeping up with the latest technology was difficult due to the previously limited space.”

Dr. Fox and Melva Pérez Andrews, OTR, CLVT, M.B.A., an occupational therapist and certified low-vision therapist, for years have been interested in exploring how vision therapy can be used to help brain-injured patients, children with neurological deficits, stroke and trauma patients, and soldiers with blast injuries. Pérez Andrews is in the Department of Ophthalmology and is an adjunct professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy of the School of Health Professions.

Holistic approach

Because of Pérez Andrews’ occupational therapy background, the team has taken on a more “holistic approach” to vision rehabilitation. “In vision rehabilitation, it is better to take into account how the entire person is affected, not just look at how the vision of the brain-injured patient is impaired. This approach required equipment and space that the center didn’t have prior to its expansion,” Pérez Andrews said.

The necessary equipment has been acquired, and Dr. Fox, Dr. Gonzalez and center staff are now evaluating and managing a variety of patients with neurological deficits and are excited to finally be able to look at ways to help this unique patient population.

“Now that we have been in the new facility for a while, it is hard to imagine how we managed in our smaller facility,” Dr. Fox said. “This is so much better!”

UT Medicine San Antonio is the clinical practice of the School of Medicine at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio. With more than 700 doctors – all School of Medicine faculty – UT Medicine is the largest medical practice in Central and South Texas. Expertise is in more than 100 medical specialties and subspecialties. Primary care doctors and specialists see patients in private practice at UT Medicine’s flagship clinical home, the Medical Arts & Research Center (MARC), located at 8300 Floyd Curl Drive, San Antonio 78229. Most major health plans are accepted, and UT Medicine physicians also practice at several local and regional hospitals. Call (210) 450-9000 to schedule an appointment, or visit www.UTMedicine.org for a list of clinics and phone numbers.

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