St. Lucian nurse to speak at WVU Eye Institute

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Denise Godin, R.N., director of St. Lucia Blind Welfare’s children’s services, will give the West Virginia University Eye Institute’s annual Pangilinan Lecture at 7 a.m. Nov. 13 in the Eye Institute Auditorium.

Godin is instrumental in leading the partnership between the WVU Eye Institute and Lions Clubs in both West Virginia and St. Lucia, a developing Caribbean island with several features similar to West Virginia’s, including population, mountainous terrain and rural living conditions. 

Most recently, the island sustained a considerable loss when sparks from a faulty air conditioner led to the explosion of three oxygen tanks. The October 2009 disaster resulted in the deaths of three patients and 80 percent of St. Jude’s Hospital – the only hospital in the southern part of the island – burning to the ground. The next closest hospital is 90 minutes away and can be reached only by traveling through a rainforest.

The island is served by volunteers providing eye surgeries to adults. But pediatric ophthalmology services – particularly eye surgery and rehabilitative services for children with permanent vision impairments – have been scarce.

For the last eight years a six-member volunteer team has traveled to the island from West Virginia. Team members are:

  •  Judie Charlton, M.D., director of the WVU Eye Institute
  •  Terry Schwartz, M.D., of the WVU Eye Institute
  •  Donna Jo Wheeler, R.N., WVU Hospitals
  •  Becky Coakley, director of the WVU Eye Institute Children’s Vision Rehabilitation Program
  •  Dan Oates, outreach and technical assistance specialist for the West Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind
  •  Lenny Fink, occupational therapist

The team provides comprehensive vision evaluations, surgeries, low vision rehabilitation and training sessions for educational and medical staff in St. Lucia.
Lions Club International, Cheat Lake Lion’s Club, West Virginia Lions and the Lion’s of St. Lucia provided a $41,000 grant to cover expenses related to the children's surgeries and equipment. For those with permanent vision impairment who cannot be helped with surgery, the grant also covers the costs of devices such as Braille embossers, white canes, magnifiers, talking watches and other assistive technology.

The Pangilinan Lecture is sponsored through the generosity of the Pangilinan family from Wheeling and is dedicated to promoting international ophthalmology efforts. It is open to the public. Godin will be available after her presentation for those wishing to learn more about outreach efforts in St. Lucia.


For more information:
Angela Jones, HSC News Service, (304) 293-7087
asj: 11-05-09

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