A $25,000 check hits the hand of William Driebe, M.D. This means more eyes can be studied. More equipment can be purchased. Maybe a treatment can be found.
Helping people with vision problems is on the minds of everyone in the room, including the doctors and the members of the North Florida Lions Eye Foundation, a Lions Club charity that helps the community with various eyesight problems.
The Foundation awarded the money to William Dawson, Ph.D., a UF emeritus professor of ophthalmology, and Timothy Garrett, Ph.D., director of the General Clinical Research Center Core Laboratory, for their studies on age-related macular degeneration, an eye disease that destroys central vision. Driebe, chairman of the department of ophthalmology, accepted the check for the absent Dawson. This was the third consecutive year the club donated money. The previous two awards were $10,000 each.
“Macular degeneration kind of hits a spot with me because my brother has it,” said Walter McLanahan, chairman of the foundation. Though the Lions Club has long been associated with helping people with eye problems, few clubs donate to research.
The foundation selected the research duo because of Dawson’s 30 years studying macular degeneration and Garrett’s forward analytical research technique called imaging mass spectrometry, which enables researchers to study specific chemicals involved in vision.
Hopefully, this research could lead to a treatment for the eye disease by targeting those chemicals. This award will be used to fund equipment, specimens and new research methods.
Currently, the researchers have to flatten and dry the eye tissue to observe it. But the tissue — and its valuable information — can easily be lost. Garrett said with this money he hopes to find a way to view the eye without cutting or drying so it can be observed in normal atmospheric conditions.
Garrett, an analytical chemist, knew nothing about macular degeneration before Dawson contacted him about the spectrometry technique. But he enjoys the process of learning and developing new applications while working with the ophthalmologist.
“It seems to be a good team to understand how to get this kind of new technology applied to some solid science,” he said.