Southern Eye Bank Celebrates 75 Years of Restoring Sight

 

Welcome to our 75th Anniversary Celebration!

Join us as we travel through time and celebrate the wonderful results of people working together to share the gift of sight. As Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

Our History

1947

New Orleans Eye-Bank is established

New Orleans Eye-Bank is established
The eye bank was officially incorporated in the state of Louisiana as the “New Orleans Eye-Bank.”
1947

Opening Day

Opening Day
The New Orleans Eye-Bank was the fourth eye bank to open in the U.S. and the first in the South until 1953. The New Orleans Eye-Bank officially opened its offices at the Hutchinson Memorial Building, 1432 Tulane Avenue in New Orleans. This building was part of the Tulane Medical School, from which “even secretarial help was offered…we paid nothing for the office space, and a great deal of furniture was loaned to us…” (Charles E. Fenner, first president of the New Orleans Eye-Bank board of trustees).
1948

First Successes

First Successes
3,000 “pledge cards” and nine corneal donations marked the successes of the fledgling eye bank. In the last 10 years, Southern Eye Bank has facilitated an average of 760 corneal transplants per year. We’ve come a long way!
1949

A New Name

A New Name
Article I of the charter of the New Orleans Eye-Bank was amended to change the name to the “Southern Eye-Bank.” The increased success and scope of the New Orleans Eye-Bank precipitated the name change, as it found itself providing tissue to surgeons not just in New Orleans, but throughout Louisiana and Mississippi, eventually including Alabama, Arkansas, and southeastern Texas. Southern Eye Bank remained the only eye bank in the South until 1953.
1961

Membership with EBAA

Membership with EBAA
Southern Eye Bank became one of the original 10 charter members of the EBAA. The Eye Bank Association of America was founded by these charter eye bank members to set the standards for the obtaining and processing of corneal tissue.
1970

Local Partnerships

Local Partnerships
Southern Eye Bank increased opportunities for eye donation by partnering with parish coroners.
1980

A New Location

The Southern Eye Bank office relocated to 440 Magnolia Building.
1990

Expansion to Acadiana

Southern Eye Bank created a satellite office in Lafayette to better serve the western part of Louisiana, tripling the number of recoveries in that area in one year.
2002

A New Partnership

A New Partnership
Southern Eye Bank began partnering with the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency to simplify the donation process.
2005

Stormy Times

Stormy Times
Extensive damage from Hurricane Katrina. Prior to the storm, Southern Eye Bank was on pace for a record year for transplants facilitated. Despite the disruption, Southern Eye Bank managed to facilitate 665 corneal transplants in 2005.
2009

A Tradition Begins

A Tradition Begins
Southern Eye Bank held the First annual Gift of Sight Celebration. In the time since it first began, the Gift of Sight Celebration has become a cherished event bringing together donor families and recipients.
2010

New Home, New Technology

New Home, New Technology
The Kingman Street building in Metairie, LA was dedicated on July 30, 2010 as Southern Eye Bank’s primary office. Around that time, Southern Eye Bank began providing tissue for new transplant procedures utilizing new instrumentation and laboratory processes, DSEK and DMEK.
2020

COVID Interruptions

COVID Interruptions
Despite the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic, Southern Eye Bank continued recovery and tissue preparation for surgeons. Many employees transitioned to home offices, meetings moved virtual, and all of our in-person events, donor drives, and memorials were cancelled. Donors were instead honored with virtual candlelight ceremonies, and we found safe and creative ways to thank the doctors and nurses working tirelessly in our local hospitals.

75 Years Add Up

Over 56,000 corneal transplantations have been facilitated by Southern Eye Bank over the last 75 years. 56,000!

Imagine if the combined populations of Chalmette, LA and Houma, LA were blind, and had their sight restored. This wonder is the scope of Southern Eye Bank’s fulfillment of its mission “To preserve and restore sight, Southern Eye Bank recovers, processes and distributes donor tissue for ocular surgery and research based on need.”

Southern Eye Bank is humbled by the generosity of every person and organization, who have kept the light of hope alive in good times and in bad throughout our 75 years.

Most humbling of all is the selfless generosity of our donors, without whom tens of thousands of people would remain in darkness. Happy 75! Here’s to 75 more!