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Capitol Hill and Vision Community Recognize NEI 40th Anniversary

Cong. Pete Sessions (R-TX, center), the lead Republican co-sponsor of H. Res. 366 (along with lead Democratic sponsor Tammy Baldwin, D-WI), with NEI Director Paul Sieving, M.D., Ph.D. and AEVR President Stephen Ryan, M.D. (Doheny Eye Institute)
Cong. Pete Sessions (R-TX, center), the lead Republican co-sponsor of H. Res. 366 (along with lead Democratic sponsor Tammy Baldwin, D-WI), with NEI Director Paul Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., left, and AEVR President Stephen Ryan, M.D. (Doheny Eye Institute), right
On June 17, the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (AEVR) hosted a Capitol Hill reception recognizing the 40th anniversary of the National Eye Institute (NEI) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) which brought together Members of Congress and their staff with the vision community and its coalition partners. The event came one day after the House of Representatives unanimously passed
H. Res. 366, a resolution that acknowledges the NEIís 40th anniversary and supports designation of 2010-2020 as the Decade of Vision (DOV). Future AEVR educational events will be held under the DOV banner, which represents a sustained program to educate about the value of federally funded vision research.

While acknowledging the rich history associated with the founding of the NEI, the speakers also focused on current NEI-funded research to save and restore vision and their global impact. AEVR Board President Stephen Ryan, M.D. (Doheny Eye Institute/University of Southern California) acknowledged the important role of vision community organizations Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) and the Lions Clubs in advocating for the creation of a free-standing eye institute separate from the then-National Institute for Neurological Diseases and Blindness, which began in the mid-1960s and culminated in passage of the NEI Act that was signed into law by President Johnson in 1968. The NEI held the first meeting of its National Advisory Eye Council (NAEC) in April 1969. Dr. Ryan announced that the 122nd meeting of the NAEC would be held the next day and that several NAEC members were present that evening. RPB and Lions Clubs were just two of the 18 vision community organizations that submitted congratulatory letters to the NEI, which were displayed at the event.

Dr. Ryan acknowledged the leadership of NEIís first director, Carl Kupfer, M.D., who served for more than 30 years, and Edward McManus, who served for more than 25 years as NEI Deputy Director and subsequently as AEVR Executive Director. In introducing current Director Paul Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., Dr. Ryan recognized Dr. Sievingís commitment to NEIís leadership in basic, clinical, and epidemiological research and as a proactive collaborator with other NIH Institutes and private funding foundations. In his comments, Dr. Sieving emphasized NEIís leadership in the study of the genetic basis of eye disease, stating that one-quarter of all of the genes discovered to date are associated with eye disease. He also reported on the measurable vision improvement within the initial safety trials of a human gene therapy trial that NEI has funded with the Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB) on Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA), a rapid retinal degeneration that blinds infants in their first year of life. Lions Clubs International President Al Brandel, a retired police detective from Long Island who has served as a Lion for 35 years, concluded the program by emphasizing the global impact of NEIís research. Lions Clubs international programs have helped to preserve vision in more than 40 million individuals. ďWe were there for the creation of the NEI, and we will continue our partnership with the NEI in the future to save and restore vision worldwide,Ē he said.

Commenting on the passage of H. Res. 366 and the reception, AEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky stated that, ď These recent events underscore the importance that Congress places on the NEI as the nationís lead Institute within the NIH to prevent blindness and save and restore vision, benefiting the health, and vision health, of all Americans.Ē Jorkasky also reported that the Senate is expected to consider a companion resolution within the week, sponsored by Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Ben Cardin (D-MD).

AEVR has a section of its Web site dedicated to the NEI 40th anniversary and the Decade of Vision 2010-2020 Initiative.

Cong. Gene Green (D-TX, left), an H. Res. 366 co-sponsor and co-Chair of the Congressional Vision Caucus, who provided a welcome, with AEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky
Cong. Gene Green (D-TX, left), an H. Res. 366 co-sponsor and co-Chair of the Congressional Vision Caucus, who provided a welcome, with AEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky
Lion Clubs International President Al Brandel spoke about NEIís global impact. Lions Clubs, in conjunction with Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB), coordinated the 100,000 telegrams and letters to Congress in 1967 to support the creation of a free-standing eye institute within the NIH.
Lion Clubs International President Al Brandel spoke about NEIís global impact. Lions Clubs, in conjunction with Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB), coordinated the 100,000 telegrams and letters to Congress in 1968 to support the creation of a free-standing eye institute within the NIH.
Cong. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), an H. Res. 366 co-sponsor, with NAEVR Advocacy Manager David Epstein
Cong. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), an H. Res. 366 co-sponsor, with NAEVR Advocacy Manager David Epstein
Elizabeth Lee (office of Cong. Tammy Baldwin, D-WI, H. Res. 366 lead Democratic sponsor) with Allie Laban-Baker (AMD Alliance International) and Joanne Angle (Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, ARVO)
Elizabeth Lee (office of Cong. Tammy Baldwin, D-WI, H. Res. 366 lead Democratic sponsor) with Allie Laban-Baker (AMD Alliance International) and Joanne Angle (Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, ARVO).
Cong. Sessions welcomed H. Res. 366 co-sponsor Cong. Howard Coble (R-NC) to the reception
Cong. Sessions welcomed H. Res. 366 co-sponsor Cong. Howard Coble (R-NC) to the reception
Dr. Ryan and James Jorkasky with Edward McManus (center), who served for more than 25 years as the NEI Deputy Director and previously as AEVR Executive Director.
Dr. Ryan and James Jorkasky with Edward McManus (center), who served for more than 25 years as the NEI Deputy Director and previously as AEVR Executive Director.
National Advisory Eye Council Member James Chodosh, M.D., M.P.H. with ARVOís Bobbie Austin, Ph.D.
National Advisory Eye Council Member James Chodosh, M.D., M.P.H. with ARVOís Bobbie Austin, Ph.D.
Cynthia Stuen, Ph.D. (Lighthouse International) and Michael Duenas, O.D.  (American Optometric Association).
Cynthia Stuen, Ph.D. (Lighthouse International) and Michael Duenas, O.D. (American Optometric Association).
Left to right: NAEC Members Scott Cousins, M.D. (Duke University Eye Center) and Charles Gilbert, M.D., Ph.D. (Rockefeller University) with Dr. Sieving
Left to right: NAEC Members Scott Cousins, M.D. (Duke University Eye Center) and Charles Gilbert, M.D., Ph.D. (Rockefeller University) with Dr. Sieving
Left to right: NAEC Members Chris McGahan, Ph.D. (North Carolina State University) and Richard Stone, M.D. (University of Pennsylvania)
Left to right: NAEC Members Chris McGahan, Ph.D. (North Carolina State University) and Richard Stone, M.D. (University of Pennsylvania)
Left to right: Ginnie Kontnik (Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Institute/University of Colorado-Denver) and ARVOís Joanne Angle
Left to right: Ginnie Kontnik (Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Institute/University of Colorado-Denver) and ARVOís Joanne Angle
Left to right: Maureen Murphy, M.D., a Long-Island anesthesiologist joined her husband Al Brandel and Lions Clubs International Vice President Sid Scruggs with Dr. Sieving
Left to right: Maureen Murphy, M.D., a Long-Island anesthesiologist, joined her husband Al Brandel and Lions Clubs International Vice President Sid Scruggs with Dr. Sieving
Left to right: Iraq War veteran Specialist Travis Fugate, USA (ret.), accompanied by Tom Zampieri, Ph.D. of Blinded Veterans Association, with James Jorkasky. On March 17, Specialist Fugate testified before the House Veterans Affairs Committee about the impact of injuries he sustained in Iraq.
Left to right: Iraq War veteran Specialist Travis Fugate, USA (ret.), accompanied by Tom Zampieri, Ph.D. of Blinded Veterans Association, with James Jorkasky. On March 17, Specialist Fugate testified before the House Veterans Affairs Committee about the impact of injuries he sustained in Iraq.
Left to right: NEIís Associate Director for Management David Whitmer joined coalition partner representatives Jon Retzlaff (Lewis-Burke Associates) and Jennifer Zeitzer (Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, FASEB)
Left to right: NEIís Associate Director for Management David Whitmer joined coalition partner representatives Jon Retzlaff (Lewis-Burke Associates) and Jennifer Zeitzer (Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, FASEB)
Dr. Ryan with former Member of Congress John Porter (Hogan & Hartson), who serves as Legislative Counsel for AEVR-affiliated advocacy organization National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR)Dr. Ryan with former Member of Congress John Porter (Hogan & Hartson), who serves as Legislative Counsel for AEVR-affiliated advocacy organization National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR) Left to right: David Epstein with representative of the Coalition for Imaging and Bioengineering Research (CIBR), including Executive Director Renee Cruea, Sarah Oliphant, and Andrew Spinelli
Left to right: David Epstein with representative of the Coalition for Imaging and Bioengineering Research (CIBR), including Executive Director Renee Cruea, Sarah Oliphant, and Andrew Spinelli