PHILADELPHIA, April 1, 2011— Award winning veteran of Eye Banking Gene S. Polgar led the Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley’s (LEBDV) cornea transplant program for over 30 years. On July 1, 2011, Polgar, who is also a past Director of the International Association of Lions Clubs (LCI), will transition to a new role of leading the organization’s targeted development efforts.
Jim Quirk, Executive Vice President, who is also a Lion and long-term employee will assume the organization’s leadership on July 1, 2011. During the past twenty years, Quirk has acquired broad experience in the many facets of modern day eye banking. He began his eye banking career as an Eye Bank Technician and Technical Operations Manager at the Medical Eye Bank of Delaware which subsequently merged with the Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley (LEBDV). While at LEBDV, Quirk also held the positions of Quality Assurance Director and Serology Lab Supervisor.
Quirk’s community involvement in support of transplantation is extensive. He was appointed by Delaware’s Governor to serve as a Board member on the state’s Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Board. He was also an appointed member of the Pennsylvania Organ Donation Advisory Committee to the Governor. As a member of New Jersey’s Coalition on Donation, he works closely on initiatives with a Coalition which includes representatives from eye banks, tissue banks, OPOs, State and local government and the State’s hospital association. Jim currently serves as the Vice Chairman of the Accreditation Board of the Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA) as well as EBAA’s Finance Committee.
“I look forward to working with the Board of Trustees to ensure our focus is on opportunities that continue to support the Eye Bank’s position as the regional leader for the procurement of quality cornea tissue,” says Quirk, a native of Delaware and US Navy veteran. The field of cornea transplantation is growing in many ways and strategic programs and partnerships must address the organization’s future needs based on today’s trends.”
The charity organization was founded by members of local members of LCI, currently the largest international volunteer organization. In its infancy, the Eye Bank’s volunteer ranks also included doctors and funeral directors as well as state & local police organizations from the tri-State area all rushing recovered corneas to hospital surgical suites for transplantation into waiting recipients. Two decades ago, there was a cornea transplant waiting list. It was not unusual for recipients to linger months or even years on the list with significant sight impairment hoping to receive the gift of improved or restored sight. The process of a family consenting to donation, funeral directors and medical residents recovering corneas and getting a donor’s gift to recipients was a frantic relay race. As needed, state police ferried the donation to state borders, handing-off the precious cargo to other volunteer police officers who rushed the corneas to waiting surgeons.
“Technological improvements in cornea tissue storage media almost twenty years ago radically changed eye banking and cornea transplantation and the viability of corneas increased from 4 days to 10 days”, said Polgar, from LEBDV’s offices in Philadelphia’s historic Northern Liberties community. “Cornea preservation enhancements combined with overnight express deliveries, legislative support and the development of uniform standards across Eye Banking resulted in the end to a shortage of corneas. Polgar cautions that there is no substitute for human cornea tissue and he encourages all to continue to register as a donor through their respective state’s donor registry.
In addition to his numerous awards in recognition of his contributions to The International Association of Lions Clubs, Polgar has been cited on several occasions for his eye bank activities and other civic endeavors throughout the world. He received the highest honor LCI bestows upon its members—the Ambassador of Goodwill Award. He is also a recipient of the Heise Award, the highest honor given by the Eye Bank Association of American (EBAA). Most recently he was celebrated as Visionary of the Year by the Lions Eye Bank of New Jersey located in northern New Jersey.
Paul H. Sheridan, Chairman of the Eye Bank Board said, “The organization’s Endowment Fund was established with an aggressive 10 million dollar goal to perpetuate and preserve the ability of the Eye Bank to sustain its operations.” He continued, “Gene’s experience locally and internationally through Lions Clubs International will be an invaluable asset in reaching out to targeted funding sources. He has been a leader in the world of Lionism for almost fifty years while simultaneously leading LEBDV for over thirty years. Gene’s development role is essential to the continued success of the organization.”
The non-profit Eye Bank has coordinated over 30,000 transplant surgeries for fifty-four years. In 2010, approximately 900 recipients in the tri state area benefitted directly from the Eye Bank’s cornea procurement operations. Its recovery service area includes southeastern Pennsylvania, the entire state of Delaware and southern New Jersey. Forty-two Board of Trustees include representatives of Lions Clubs as well as non-Lions throughout its service recovery area and extending into northern New Jersey.