Tag Archive | "Bascom Palmer Eye Institute"

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Bascom Palmer Physician Makes Mother’s Dying Dream Come True


Bascom Palmer's Guillermo Amescua, left,  examines the eye of Juan Aguirre.

Bascom Palmer’s Guillermo Amescua, left, examines the eye of Juan Aguirre.

Back in 1979, Miriam Aguirre Santos was walking with her 5-year-old son Juan and his younger sister in their hometown of Holguin de Oriente in Cuba. Suddenly, a motorcycle driver swerved, striking Juan in the head and leaving him with a scar on the cornea of his left eye.

Soon after, the Santos family moved to the U.S., and Juan grew up to be a successful musician, husband, and father despite the poor vision in his damaged eye. Through the decades, his mother—a strong believer in organ donation—dreamed of giving one of her corneas to her son, and wrote down her wish in a personal journal. After she died of a heart attack September 30 on Miami Beach, a dedicated team of professionals from the Florida Lions Eye Bank and the Miller School’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute combined their expertise to make her dream come true.

On October 8, Guillermo Amescua, M.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology at Bascom Palmer, performed the first mother-son corneal transplant in South Florida history. After a recent checkup, Juan Aguirre, 39, said his vision is already improving. “I can see much more clearly without the constant gloomy haze,” he said. “Now, when I pick up my guitar or the piano I can finally see what my left hand is doing without turning my head. It’s just a wonderful experience.”

A professional musician, Aguirre lives in rural White Post, Virginia, with his wife, Cozette, and their two children, Sofia and Lucien. He has recorded six albums in various musical genres under the name Diablo Dimes, and will appear at Art Basel Miami Beach and the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.

Both he and his sister Janette were surprised when the Florida Lions Eye Bank informed them of their mother’s wish to donate her cornea. Since corneas must be transplanted within just a few days of the donor’s death, it takes a rare combination of circumstances for a family transplant to take place, according to Elizabeth Fout-Caraza, executive director of the Florida Lions Eye Bank, which has been located at Bascom Palmer since both institutions were founded in the early 1960s.

“Because corneal tissues can’t be frozen, a transplant must be done in seven to 10 days,” said Fout-Caraza. “Fortunately, Aguirre Santos was a registered donor, which made it much easier for her family members to help get the process started.”

When an ophthalmologist couldn’t be found near Aguirre’s home in Virginia, he flew to Miami for an evaluation by Amescua, who returned from a volunteer eye surgery mission trip to Costa Rica to meet with the musician.

“While corneal transplant surgery has been done successfully for decades, not every patient is a candidate,” said Amescua. “Fortunately, Juan turned out to be a suitable recipient, and his mother’s cornea was in excellent condition, so we went ahead with the surgery the next day.”

In addition to enjoying his improved vision, Aguirre is hoping that more South Floridians—especially Hispanics—follow his mother’s example and become organ donors. “I’ve been a donor for many years,” he said. “It’s a way for me to help others after I’m gone.”

Each year, the Florida Lions Eye Bank facilitates about 700 corneal transplants from organ donors, according to Fout-Caraza. In fact, Aguirre Santos’ second cornea was transplanted in a Miami woman, helping to restore her vision, while her donated liver was transplanted in a woman in Boca Raton.

“Organ donors save lives,” she said. “You can enroll in the Florida Donor Registry by going online to www.donatelifeflorida.org.

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Discovery Leads to Simple Blood or Urine Test to Identify Blinding Disease


Byron Lam and Rong Wen, professors of ophthalmology at Bascom Palmer, discovered a key marker in blood and urine that can identify people who carry genetic mutations in a gene responsible for retinitis pigmentosa.

Byron Lam and Rong Wen, professors of ophthalmology at Bascom Palmer, discovered a key marker in blood and urine that can identify people who carry genetic mutations in a gene responsible for retinitis pigmentosa.

Research led by physician-scientists at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute has produced a breakthrough discovery in diagnosing retinitis pigmentosa, a blinding disease that affects about 1 in 4,000 people in the United States. Read the full story

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Renowned Bascom Palmer Ophthalmologist Finally Awarded Undergraduate Degree

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Renowned Bascom Palmer Ophthalmologist Finally Awarded Undergraduate Degree


UM President Donna E. Shalala, right, and Miller School Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, left, present renowned ophthalmologist David T. Tse with his UM undergraduate degree during an ophthalmology grand rounds session held on July 11.

UM President Donna E. Shalala, right, and Miller School Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, left, present renowned ophthalmologist David T. Tse with his UM undergraduate degree during an ophthalmology grand rounds session held on July 11.

In the rarest of events, David T. Tse, professor of ophthalmology and the Dr. Nasser Ibrahim Al-Rashid Chair in Ophthalmic Plastic, Orbital Surgery, and Oncology at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, was awarded his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami—nearly 40 years after launching his medical career.

Tse, an internationally acclaimed oculofacial plastic and reconstructive surgeon, attended the University of Miami in 1969 as an undergraduate, and after only two years, was accepted to medical school. While Tse received his medical degree in 1976, he never received his undergraduate degree, a detail he casually mentioned to UM President Donna E. Shalala during a celebratory dinner for the recipients of commencement honorary degrees. Read the full story

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Bascom Palmer Marks a Decade as No. 1 in Ophthalmology

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Bascom Palmer Marks a Decade as No. 1 in Ophthalmology


Bascom Palmer is No. 1 in ophthalmology for the tenth consecutive year.

Bascom Palmer is No. 1 in ophthalmology for the tenth consecutive year.

After a triumphant golden anniversary celebration last year, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine has achieved another historic milestone. For the 10th consecutive year, the renowned institute is ranked No. 1 nationally in ophthalmology in U.S. News & World Report’s annual “Best Hospitals” rankings. Read the full story

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Bascom Palmer Eye Institute Breaks Ground on New Site in Naples


From left are Eduardo C. Alfonso, Stephen G. Schwartz, and Michael Gittelman at the new site in Naples.

From left are Eduardo C. Alfonso, Stephen G. Schwartz, and Michael Gittelman at the new site in Naples.

Bascom Palmer Eye Institute officially began its expansion to better serve patients on Florida’s Gulf Coast at a February 8 groundbreaking ceremony for its new and bigger location in Naples.

Bascom Palmer Chairman Eduardo C. Alfonso; Stephen G. Schwartz, medical director of Bascom Palmer at Naples; and Michael Gittelman, executive administrator at Bascom Palmer, joined Naples Mayor John F. Sorey and other community leaders at the 1.5-acre site Bascom Palmer purchased on the northeast corner of U.S. 41 and Cypress Woods Drive. Due to increasing patient demand, Bascom Palmer has outgrown space it has leased since first opening in Naples in 2004.

Bascom Palmer’s expanded presence in Naples will contain clinical space customized for the treatment of all ophthalmic diseases and disorders, as well as imaging, laser vision correction, vision research, and an ambulatory surgery center. Ranked the No. 1 eye hospital in the nation for the past nine years by U.S. News & World Report, Bascom Palmer is expected to draw more visitors to the region, contributing to Collier County’s growth as a medical destination.

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