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AGS Advocates for Glaucoma Awareness and Research in Capitol Hill Visits and a Glaucoma Screening Event on the First-ever World Glaucoma Day

On March 6, members of the American Glaucoma Society (AGS) visited nearly 100 Capitol Hill offices to educate Congress about the incidence of glaucoma and the need for increased vision research funding. This first-ever AGS Advocacy Day—held on the first-ever World Glaucoma Day—was accompanied by a luncheon screening that included real-time optic nerve and pressure evaluation of the eye. These events represented two of the more than 300 events being held globally to expand awareness of the disease, which can damage the optic nerve and lead to vision loss.

Left to right: AGS President Robert Weinreb, M.D. (Hamilton Glaucoma Center/University of California San Diego), Cong. Pete Sessions (R-TX), and Advocacy Day Program Co-Chair Anne Coleman, M.D. (Jules Stein Eye Institute/University of California Los Angeles)  Cong. Sessions participates in the screeningLEFT IMAGE: Left to right: AGS President Robert Weinreb, M.D. (Hamilton Glaucoma Center/University of California San Diego), Cong. Pete Sessions (R-TX), and Advocacy Day Program Co-Chair Anne Coleman, M.D. (Jules Stein Eye Institute/University of California Los Angeles);
RIGHT IMAGE: Foreground: Cong. Sessions participates in the screening

The AGS’s glaucoma specialists and researchers focused on three important messages:

  • Glaucoma awareness, as it is the second leading cause of preventable blindness in the United States and worldwide and needs to be diagnosed and treated as early as possible to mitigate vision loss. As a result, individuals at risk (especially in African American and Hispanic communities, in which it is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss) and those over the age of 40 should have regular, comprehensive eye exams that include careful examination of the optic nerve and measurement of eye pressure.

  • Members of the House were encouraged to co-sponsor House Resolution 981, sponsored by Cong. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Cong. Pete Sessions (R-TX) recognizing March 6 as the first-ever World Glaucoma Day.

  • All members were urged to support a 6.6 percent increase in Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Eye Institute (NEI), the latter of which was flat-funded in FY2008. The AGS utilized NAEVR’s position paper and talking points in its visits.
"Although many of the AGS members had not previously visited Capitol Hill, they were articulate and effective advocates with a powerful message," said NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky who, with NAEVR Advocacy Manager David Epstein, accompanied the participants in meetings the entire day. "Members and their staffs were especially interested in how glaucoma is a ‘sneak thief’ of vision loss, often undetected until there is significant vision loss. That is why the accompanying screening event was so important in emphasizing the message about early diagnosis and treatment."

Cong. Pete Sessions, a sponsor of HR 981, provided a welcome. "We need to be concerned about vision loss around the world. Even though the United States is a leader in eye and vision research, we still have many challenges in getting individuals diagnosed and treated for blinding eye diseases." Cong. Gene Green (D-TX), a co-chair of the Congressional Vision Caucus, also attended the two-hour event, which drew a steady stream of staff.

NAEVR is posting all events related to World Glaucoma Day in a dedicated section of its Web site at www.eyeresearch.org


Dr. Weinreb and Dr. Coleman with Cong. Gene Green (D-TX), Chair of the Congressional Vision Caucus

Left to right: Arthur Sit, M.D. (Mayo Clinic College of Medicine), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), an ardent supporter of NIH funding increases, and Thomas Samuelson M.D. (University of Minnesota)

Andrew Adelson, M.D. and Howard Weiss, M.D., M.P.H., met with Keisha Brooks-Coley (center) in the office of Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), a Senate Appropriator in whose state the NIH campus is located

Left to right: Sarah Chin, office of Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), with Paul Kaufman, M.D.. Sen. Kohl, an appropriator with jurisdiction over NIH funding and defense-related vision research funding, also chairs the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

Advocacy Day Program Co-Chair Ted Krupin, M.D. (Northwestern University) emphasizes the key messages during the preparatory breakfast session

NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky and Scott Christensen, President of The Glaucoma Foundation and the World Glaucoma Patient Association, which initiated World Glaucoma Day