Since its humble beginnings in 1969, the Lions' Eye Bank of Washington, Northern Idaho, and Alaska at the UW Medical Center has become one of the largest and best eye banks in the world for both transplantation and research. On December 8, 1994, the facility marked a major milestone as the ten-thousandth person received a cornea for transplantation from the Eye Bank.
The Bank was founded by the non-profit Lions' Sight Conservation Foundation. The facility has grown considerably since those early days, under the medical direction first of Carl Kupfer, and then of Robert Kalina, who continued to direct the facility until 1992. In 1983, the Eye Bank took occupancy of a new facility in the UW Hospital.
Today, under the medical direction of Thomas D. Lindquist of the UW Department of Ophthalmology, the Lions' Eye Bank at the UW ranks number one in the world for providing eyes for research into the causes, prevention, and improved treatments of eye diseases, and also ranks among the top centers in transplantation.
Unlike many eye banks in other cities, the Lions' Eye Bank at the UW has in place a special protocol for determining whether or not a cornea is suitable for transplantation. Lions' Eye Bank staff members work with the donor families to build a social/medical-history profile of each donor, which forms an important part of the screening process, explains Donna Oiland, who directs the operations of the Bank.