Singapore Eye Bank (SEB) breaks yet another record in its 26 years of history in cornea donations. It achieved the highest number of local cornea donations in 2016 at 236 donations, an increase from the previous record set in 2015 which had 222 donations.
According to press of Media OutReach on April 17, the record high cornea donation numbers are attributed to greater public awareness and the country coming together to play a role in restoring the sights of others. Singaporeans are increasingly recognizing that it is a privilege to be able to restore and improve the lives of those who are in need of corneas. The desire to help transcends economic and social divides, making a difference in a stranger's life. The charitable acts from these donors have bestowed many with the generous gift of sight and a second chance to see the world in a new light.
Singapore is gradually being recognized as one of the leading corneal transplant centres globally, with our local clinical results surpassing many international transplant programs. Intensive research has been actively carried out, leading to innovations in developing the latest forms of corneal transplantation. With over 350 scientific publications, Singapore Corneal Transplant Study continues to lead the way in the development of new corneal transplantation surgery, with greatly improved outcomes for the restoration of corneal blindness in corneal transplant patients. In a recent study, Singapore is ranked 3rd in Asia for having the highest cornea tissue procurement per capita after Sri Lanka and India.
In Singapore, there is a growing list of patients who are waiting for a corneal graft operation to restore their sight. Founded in 1991, SEB is responsible for providing human corneal tissue of excellent quality to patients in need of corneal transplant. SEB also manages its highly successful local Hospital Eye Donation Program and actively participates in the national multi-organ donation programs. Over the years, they have rolled out initiatives to raise public awareness and to call for Singaporeans to come together to reduce the stigma of organ donations.
Recently, Professor Donald Tan, Medical Director of SEB, was awarded the Asia Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology (APAO) Jose Rizal Medal for his significant contributions to advancing ophthalmology in the Asia-Pacific region. The second Singaporean to receive this award of excellence in 34 years, Professor Tan is among the pioneers of modern corneal transplantation surgery, pterygium surgery, ocular surface stem cell transplantation and keratoprosthesis surgery. Professor Tan is a prominent figure in the local medical industry, especially in the field of cornea. He has clinched numerous awards in the course of his career such as Minister for Health 2006 Award for Outstanding Performance in Public Health, the National Outstanding Clinician Scientist National Medical Excellence Award in 2008, and the President's Science Award in 2009. Not only is he widely recognized in the local field, he has won over 30 international awards which has further solidified his position in the medical industry. Under his mentorship, SEB hopes to garner more support from the community and to reduce the number of patients on the local waiting list.
Professor Tan commented, "I am heartened to see an upward trend of local cornea donors in Singapore. This could not have been achieved without the help of my team at Singapore Eye Bank and of course, the entire nation coming together in making something meaningful happen. It is extremely rewarding to be able to restore the vision and make a difference in the lives of others, and we are grateful to the donors and their family members for making the precious gift of sight possible for many individuals last year and we hope that the number of donations will continue to increase in the coming years."
SEB hopes to continue to increase awareness on cornea donation and aims to achieve another milestone in cornea donations in 2017 to meet the demands of patients waiting for corneal drafts. SEB will be organizing some regional and global scale conferences in the pipeline, hoping to further research in the field of corneal transplant.