The New Oregon Elks Children’s Eye Clinic Building
The relationship between the Elks and Oregon Health & Sciences University’s Department of Ophthalmology began in 1949, when Dr. Kenneth Swan was looking for the cause of Retinopathy of Prematurity or ROP, which is blindness in premature babies. At the same time, a member of the Oregon City Elks, Judge Robert Mulvey, became the father of twin premature boys who were blind. A connection was established between the Elks and Dr. Swan, who believed ROP was caused by excessive oxygen being given to these premature babies, causing the blood vessels in the eyes to develop in a haphazard manner. Dr. Swan needed a $2,000.00 oximeter to prove his theory and the Elks provided the funds, and Dr. Swan was able to confirm that the excessive oxygen did indeed cause ROP.
At that time, the Elks were looking for a state major project and it was decided that a relationship with the Department of Ophthalmology would be a good fit. Thus, the Elks Children’s Eye Clinic was born. The Elks made a significant decision at that time, instead of just treating individual children, we would create a facility that would not only provide treatment, but also do research, and training for doctors to become ophthalmologists. This relationship grew and developed through the years.
It is important for all Elks to realize that OHSU is contributing $15,000,000.00 to the operating cost of our clinic so the building can be named for the Oregon Elks. Why is OHSU doing this? I believe it is their way of thanking the Elks of Oregon for the over $40,000,000.00 that have been donated since 1949, to make this Department of Ophthalmology the world leader that it has become. OHSU recognizes the role that the Oregon Elks have played in making OHSU such a successful institution. The $15,000,000.00 on top of the previously donated $40,000,000.00 will make the Oregon Elks the largest organizational donor to the entire Oregon Health and Sciences University System.
In 1963, the Elks decided to create a foundation to provide stable funding for our eye clinic and the Elks Youth Eye Service or EYES, was created. EYES is modeled after the Elks National Foundation, where monies donated are never spent, but are invested, and only what is generated by those investments is spent. Since its inception in 1963, EYES has received just over $3.3 million in donations. At the end of 2016, the total amount given by EYES to our visual program will be $29,686,798.00, and as of September 1, 2016, the value of our investments has grown to over $54 million.
In the mid-1980’s, the Department of Ophthalmology decided to build a new building and a member of the Portland Elks Lodge, Harry Casey donated over $9,000,000.00 towards the construction of this facility. The Department of Ophthalmology became the Casey Eye Institute. In addition to Harry Casey’s donation, individual Elks and our Lodges donated thousands of dollars towards the construction and equipping the new building. There are no records indicating the amount of other Elk donations since 1949, but I have estimated that these donations would be in excess of $3 million. These donations would have come from individual Elks, lodge fund raisers, the Elks National Foundation, a portion of the OSEA per capita dues and other sources. In total, it is certainly fair to say that the total amount of donations to our major state project since 1949 would easily exceed $40,000,000.00.
What we have helped to create is a world leader in the treatment of vision issues. Dr. Earl Palmer, building on the work of Dr. Swan, developed a treatment of Retinopathy of Prematurity and became the pre-eminent authority in the world in treating this condition. A gene therapy program, where a defective gene, which will cause blindness in a child, can be identified and replaced with a healthy gene, inserted in the eye, to override the defective gene thus preserving the child’s eyesight One of four places in the world where this procedure is performed is our Elks Children’s Eye Clinic.
Each year our clinic accepts six doctors to enter a three year residency program to become ophthalmologists. There are over six hundred applicants for these six positions. The clinic has over 133,000 patient visits annually, of which over 18,000 are pediatric visits.
OHSU is planning on constructing a new building adjacent to and connected with the Casey Eye Institute. This will be a $50 million, six story, 60,000 sq. ft. building. The naming rights for this new building are set at $20 million. In July of 2015, Dr. David Wilson, Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology and Keith Todd, President of the OHSU Foundation came to the EYES meeting with a proposal. If the EYES Directors would agree that for the next seven years, the $15,000,000.00 that we normally give for the operation of our clinic would be earmarked to the construction of the new building, then OHSU would cover the operating cost of our Elks Children’s Eye Clinic. The Elks would also be asked to spread the word about this new building and make members aware of this project and try to raise the remaining $5,000,000.00 so the new building would be named the Oregon Elks Children’s Eye Clinic.
Don Jensen, PSP
President, Elks Youth Eye Service