Lions NSW-ACT Save Sight Foundation
Lions Clubs NSW-ACT Public Health Care Foundation

Lions Save Sight Institute

EYEDEAS (Chilly Winter Edition)

In 1984 at the annual Lions convention in NSW, Professor Frank Billson spoke of the urgent need for an eye institute to be associated with Sydney Eye Hospital.

Following further meetings with representatives of NSW Lions Clubs, the Lions Save Sight Foundation and Lions Clubs of NSW agreed to provide seed funding for an Institute to be established as a not-for-profit Foundation.

Later that year, a proposal for the Save Sight Institute to be a Foundation of the University of Sydney was agreed to by the Vice Chancellor, Professor John Ward, and supported by the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Sir Richard Guy. It was agreed that the Institute be established in the teaching unit of the Crown Street Women's Hospital, which had recently been closed.  Professor Billson was appointed Head of the Department of Ophthalmology and Director of the Save Sight Institute (SSI).

In 1985 the Institute was opened by the Governor of New South Wales, Sir James Roland, in the presence of the Chancellor of the University of Sydney, Sir Hermann Black; the Mayor of Sydney, Douglas Sutherland; local Member of Parliament, Michael Yabsley; the Chairman of Lions Save Sight Foundation, Ted Wilson; and past District Governors, Ron Reavly and Keith Small.

In 1997, the Institute was offered accommodation in the South Block of the Sydney Hospital, Macquarie Street, which had housed hospital wards since 1867. Fundraising activities for the refurbishment of the Institute were undertaken by Professor Billson. Laboratories were commissioned, clinical areas established and the Institute provided accommodation for the Lions NSW Eye Bank, Foresight Australia and the University of Sydney's Department of Clinical Ophthalmology.

Today, the Institute's research into the important causes of blindness in childhood or the older person, is recognised nationally and internationally. It has invented a diagnostic method, which is a breakthrough for early detection of glaucoma, a technology that has been clinically proven in the Institute and is now being produced and marketed by a commercial company. The technology is now recognised by the Department of Health as part of Medicare and is contributing to the economic growth of NSW.  The Institute has attracted international interest through its association with community-based studies in the Blue Mountains and through the development of therapies and clinical drug trials, which will potentially alleviate major forms of age-related blindness. The Institute's research into developmental disorders in children has provided insights and therapies for retinopathy of prematurity and childhood blindness.

The Institute’s research is supported by competitive national and international research grants and by donations from the community.

The Institute has also developed an important capacity that will be relevant to teleophthalmology and education through the internet.  It is planning on participating in the Sydney fibre basin project, which will allow rapid communication with other health institutions and rural clinical schools of the University through fibre optic connectivity and for transmission of information including digital photos of clinic conditions.

The overseas arm of the Institute, Foresight, is an international non-government organization (NGO) committed to the prevention of blindness in developing countries and has a proud record going back to 1978.  It works in partnership with Laila, a Papua New Guinea NGO.  One of its programmes, centred mainly in the Asia Pacific region, includes the recycled glasses project.  Almost 10,000 glasses have been sent to countries including Sri Lanka, East Timor, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, Solomon Islands, Kiribus, Tonga, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Ghana.  Professor Billson has been responsible for the building of a hospital in Chittagong, Bangladesh and visits this country on an average of each year to continue the help and training begun in the late ‘70’s.

Foresight is a founding member of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness and Professor Billson is its Honorary Vice President.  Foresight is currently involved with the Word Health Organisation in the project Vision 2020, Right to Sight which aims to eradicate needless blindness in the developing world over the next 20 years.  

Lions NSW-ACT Save Sight Foundation was instrumental in the formation of the Save Sight Institute in 1984 through seed funding and has maintained continual support through research and equipment grants as well as other financial assistance.  The Save Sight Institute has 3 Lions representatives on its Board of Directors.

Website Link: Lions Save Sight Institute - Sydney University