Circa PCO World: Fall 1991

lions-partnership-1991.jpgIn 1985, the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) became the first optometric institution in the world to establish its own Lions Club. The creation of the Club added another dimension to the strong partnership that the College had established with local and state Lions Clubs and the Lions Sight Conservation and Eye Research Foundation.

In fact, PCO researchers have been beneficiaries of eye research, equipment and patient care grants from the Lions since the early sixties. Three of the major projects the Lions have helped fund at PCO include the Electron Microscope with $70,000; the SRI Eye Tracker with $60,000; and the most recent Excimer Laser Project with $90,000 to be used over three years. There have also been several smaller $10,000 range grants given for a host of individual research projects.

“No other external group has been more consistent in eye research support at PCO than the Lions,” said Anthony F. Di Stefano, OD ‘73, MPH, vice president and dean for Academic Advancement. “They have played a critical role in initiating research and helping the College become more competitive for larger government and foundation grants,” he added.

PCO is currently utilizing the $90,000 Excimer Laser grant to help fund the establishment of the Excimer Laser Research Laboratory of the Light and Laser Institute. Several research projects are presently being conducted in the research lab.

A study is now being conducted which involves fitting contact lenses on rabbits that have had excimer treatment. Researchers are looking to see if there is an increased risk of side effects from wearing contact lenses on corneas that have had excimer treatment. In a laboratory model, they are studying the effect of corneal edema ablation rate and accuracy. Researchers can document the healing process and how accurate the result is with a corneal topographer, which measures corneal curvature and produces a topographic map of what the cornea looks like over its surface.

The Lions also helped PCO fund the SRI Eye Tracker which is currently used to research one of the most common causes of low vision among elderly, maculopathy, which destroys central vision. As a result, the ability to see detail is compromised. Using the double Purkinji Image Eyetracker, Steve Whittaker, associate professor of Physiological Optics, and Roger Cummings, associate professor of Optometry, have studied patterns of vision loss and discovered both adaptive and maladaptive eye movements that also result from this disorder. These discoveries are leading to the development of clinical techniques that will identify the maladaptive eye movements and teach clients to adopt adaptive eye movements. These procedures will enable the patients to better use their remaining vision to read, recognize faces, and perform activities of daily living.

Lions Background

The Pennsylvania Lions Sight Conservation and Eye Research Foundation has been sponsoring projects at various health professional schools and eye and ear hospitals throughout the state since 1957.

“Institutions and individuals send in project ideas that are reviewed by a medical advisory board and optometric advisory board. After the boards review the ideas, they make recommendations on which projects should be funded,” explains Dr. Lester Keift, chairman of the Pennsylvania Lions Sight Conservation and Eye Research Foundation.

The Pennsylvania Lions Sight Conservation and Eye Research Foundation does not stand alone. It comes under the umbrella of Lions Club International, the largest service organization in the world with clubs in 170 nations. Lions international is the only service club in the world that has a seat at the United Nations and was the first service club to reach Russia, Poland, and Hungary.

“Lions Club International is constantly expanding to take on new projects and service branches,” said Michael Carcaise, OD ’55, member of the Board of Directors for the Lions Foundation and winner of the 1991 PCO Alumni Association Special Recognition award for his work as a Lion. “For example, the Lions International Foundation funds disasters and gives money for humanitarian purposes,” he said.

The foundation recently started a new program called ‘Sight First’ in which $100 million has been allocated to third world countries to eradicate blindness. These funds will provide vitamin A and medications for those who can’t afford it. They are also funding cataract surgery for South American Citizens.

In addition, the Foundation has established a leader dog school in Rochester, Mich. Any blind person can obtain a dog for free. Transportation, room and board are paid for by the Foundation and training takes five to six weeks.

“As you can see, the Lions do wonderful work and I’m thrilled that I helped form the PCO Lions Club in 1985,” said Dr. Carcaise. “PCO and the Lions have an excellent relationship that I would like to see continue so that we can help PCO further its work and research.”

The PCO Lions

“The PCO Lions Club is the only campus organization that involves the entire College Community,” said Brad Cross, OD ’93, president of the PCO Lions Club.
The Club gives students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to become involved in various community service projects.

Membership can assist students in forming relationships that will help them after graduation, and faculty and staff can become involved active contributors in the community.

“The PCO Lions Club is starting to become more involved with eye research fundraising activities,” said Al Dettore, member of the Board of Directors for the Pennsylvania Lions Sight Conservation and Eye Research Foundation. “The Club has started to really pull together and increase membership from within the College and out. But the Club needs more support from College alumni to create more membership enthusiasm,” added Mr. Dettore.

The PCO Lions are hard at word planning new projects for the fall. Vision screenings have been arranged at various Philadelphia locations, social hours have been planned to raise money to support programs and food drives will occur during the holidays to raise money for the Philadelphia Homeless Shelter.

“We will be doing some heavy recruiting this year. The officers will be holding meetings with each class about different projects and on how the organization works,” said Cross.


Two years ago, Lions Club International celebrated its 100th year of service. The organization now has over 1 million Lions around the world, 47,000 Clubs, and over 200 countries and regions served.

Today, the Lions Club chapter of Salus University is still very active with groups of students dedicated to volunteerism and giving back to the community through vision care. 

Earlier this year, the Eynon-Archbald Lions Club received the 2019 Public Service Award from the Alumni Association of Salus University in recognition for their hard work as the second largest Lions Club in Pennsylvania.