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US and UK veterans’ charities to host first “Life Beyond Sight Loss” seminar bringing world-renowned experts together to tackle sight loss

Media Invite – Photo and Interview opportunity
When:  Wednesday 24 May – 13:00
Where: Victory Services Club, 63-79 Seymour St, London, W2 2HF

A research seminar bringing world-renowned experts together to discuss sight loss will be taking place in London this week (24/05). The “Life Beyond Sight Loss” Seminar is the first in a series looking at various research and innovation ideas in relation to blind veterans.

The seminar is part of an exchange programme called Project Gemini where members of the US organisation the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) will be visiting Britain to join Blind Veterans UK this week.

Now in its seventh year, Project Gemini enables Blind Veterans UK and the BVA to share experiences and knowledge about matters such as blind rehabilitation and readjustment training, vision research and adaptive technology for the blind. This year, two blind veterans from the St. Dunstan’s Association for South African War-Blinded Veterans will also join the project.

The seminar, which will be held at the Victory Services Club in London, will discuss veterans’ rehabilitation, eye trauma, Traumatic Brain Injuries vision conditions, and vision trauma research as a special Project Gemini initiative. Guest speakers will include three internationally known ophthalmologists and Surgeon General of the British Defense Medical Services Vice Admiral Alasdair Walker.

Dr. Renata Gomes, Head of Research and Innovation at Blind Veterans UK, says: “The Research Seminar series will bring together world experts on a variety of issues affecting our beneficiaries, to keep us informed, participate and develop research paving the way to reversing the effects of blindness.

“Blind Veterans UK has always been at the forefront of adaptive technologies, from our humble beginnings in 1915, we have endeavoured to invent and adapt anything that would make our beneficiaries lives better. Our care ranged from innovative ophthalmic provisions to ensuring beneficiaries could have fun and play games.

“Our first seminar is focusing on the effects of traumatic brain injuries and their links to sight loss. 70%1 of those suffering from blast traumatic brain injuries sustained through service in the armed forces complain of vision conditions which may lead to blindness. Blind Veterans UK wants to be at the forefront supporting research to avoid this.”

Major Tom Zampieri (Ret.), of the BVA and a legally blind veteran himself, will be speaking at the seminar. He says: “This week, and particularly the seminar, is so important because, by bringing together experts and blinded veterans from different countries, we can learn lessons from each other’s healthcare systems and veterans’ services and influence changes that best support blind veterans in each nation.

“The goal is the achievement of better care for blinded veterans and their families, ensuring that they receive the highest quality of care and support they so richly deserve.”

President of Blind Veterans UK Colin Williamson, says: “Blind Veterans UK is very proud to be welcoming comrades from around the world to the UK.

“Continued research into the prevention, treatment and after-care of combat-related eye and brain injuries that result in sight loss is vital and, through Project Gemini, we would like to encourage research and innovation into these specific areas.”

BVA traces its earliest beginnings to March 28, 1945 when a group of war-blinded servicemen met at Avon Old Farms Convalescent Hospital near Avon, Connecticut.

Blind Veterans UK was founded in 1915 and the charity’s initial purpose was to help and support soldiers blinded in the First World War. But the organisation has gone on to support more than 35,000 blind veterans and their families, spanning the Second World War to recent conflicts including Iraq and Afghanistan.

For more than a century, the charity has been providing vital free training, rehabilitation, equipment and emotional support to blind and vision-impaired veterans no matter when they served or how they lost their sight.

Visit blindveterans.org.uk/support to learn more about the charity and how you can support its vital work today.

ENDS

For all media enquiries please contact: Mark Wheeler, PR Manager, Blind Veterans UK, 12 – 14 Harcourt Street, London, W1H 4HD, E: mark.wheeler@blindveterans.org.uk, T: 020 7616 7980

Notes to Editors

Blind Veterans UK

Blind Veterans UK is a national charity that believes that no-one who has served our country should have to battle blindness alone. Founded in 1915, the charity provides blind and vision impaired ex-Service men and women with lifelong support including welfare support, rehabilitation, training, residential and respite care.

Find out more at: blindveterans.org.uk, follow us on Facebook at: facebook.com/blindveteransuk and on Twitter at: twitter.com/blindveterans.

Reference

1 – Institute of Medicine (2013). Returning Home from Iraq and Afghanistan: Assessment of Readjustment Needs of Veterans, Service Members, and Their Families. 1st ed. National Academies Press.

Speakers

Surgeon Vice Admiral Alasdair Walker, OBE, QHS, FRCS

Surgeon Vice Admiral Alasdair Walker was born and educated in Glasgow and graduated M.B. Ch.B. from the University of Glasgow in 1979, having been selected as a Medical Cadet by the Royal Navy in 1978. Despite being selected for surgical training, he spent a year as the Occupational Health Medical Officer at H.M.S. Neptune before being appointed to the 6th Frigate Squadron (Type 12’s) as Squadron M.O., deploying with HMS Plymouth to the Falklands War in 1982.

Vice Admiral Walker commenced surgical training in 1983 at Royal Naval Hospitals (RNH) Plymouth and Haslar, completing F.R.C.S. in 1985.  He was detached to Basingstoke Hospital in 1988 for a year, and to the Vascular Unit at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in 1990-1992 for specialist training, returning to R.N.H. Haslar during the Gulf War as an attached consultant.

Between 1999 and 2007 at Derriford Hospital, Plymouth he was the first military Consultant to be appointed to clinical management posts in a civilian unit, when he took up the role of Clinical Director in Surgery, followed by Divisional Director of Surgical Services and latterly Assistant Medical Director for Service Improvement, being closely involved in the developments in clinical care and services at Derriford Hospital. In 2006 he became Military Clinical Director for M.D.H.U. Derriford, and then in January 2007 Defence Consultant Advisor in Surgery.  He has published over forty papers relating to military medicine, surgery and trauma and was appointed O.B.E. in 2005. In 2015, he took over the responsibility as Medical Director General (Naval) and Chief Naval Medical Officer.

He has deployed to Bosnia, Kosovo and Sierra Leone as military surgeon, serving with not only the Royal Navy and Royal Marines; but also the British Army and American Forces. He led Commando Forward Surgical Group 2 during the Iraq War in 2003, treating coalition and Iraqi casualties, and has conducted a clinical tour in Afghanistan.

He was promoted to Surgeon Commodore in 2009 and appointed as Medical Director, responsible for military clinical policy and medical research.  In 2014, he promoted Surgeon Rear Admiral and Director of Medical Policy and Operational Capability. He assumed the position of Surgeon General on promotion to Surgeon Vice Admiral on 18th December 2015.

Dr. Heidi Baseler Ph.D.

Dr. Heidi Baseler is a Lecturer at the Hull York Medical School in the Centre for Neuroscience at the University of York. Her current research focuses on understanding how our visual system adapts to sensory loss, particularly sight loss. With a first degree in Biology and Psychology from Dartmouth College in the U.S., she went on to specialise in Vision Science, obtaining a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. She completed postdoctoral training at Stanford University and the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in the U.S. before coming to York in 2008.

Colonel (Ret. U.S. Air Force) Dr. Glenn Cockerham M.D.

Dr. Glenn Cockerham is the National Program Director for Ophthalmology Services in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and Associate Clinical Professor in Ophthalmology and Pathology at Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, California. Dr. Cockerham is a board-certified ophthalmologist with subspecialty training in both Corneal Surgery and Ophthalmic Pathology. His current research investigates visual functioning and quality of life in blast-injured Veterans. He was previously a Colonel, Senior Flight Surgeon and Chief Consultant for Surgery in the U.S. Air Force.

Lieutenant Colonel (Ret. U.S. Army) Dr. Kimberly Cockerham M.D. FACS.

Dr. Kimberly Cockerham served in the U.S Army from 1983 to 1998; currently is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology at Stanford University and a Consultant, at Palo Alto VAHPS.

Dr. Cockerham is a board certified ophthalmologist with fellowship training and over two decades of experience and over two decades of experience in cosmetic and reconstructive treatments, laser and surge and surgery. As Chief of Oculofacial  Chief of Plastics at Walter Reed Army Medical Centre in Washington, D.C. at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., she was honored to care for the injured returning from Desert Storm, Bosnia, Somalia and the Beruit Bombings. In recognition of her service, Dr. Cockerham was recognized with the National Service Ribbon, Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal and two Superior Unit Awards. , and two Superior Unit Awards. She later served as chief of Oculofacial Plastics at University of California, San Francisco and earned recognition for innovation and expertise including for innovation and expertise including “ “Who’s Who in American Women”, “” “Who’s Who in Medicine”,” “ “Best Doctors in America”“, two  Star Awards for Excellence at UCSF, four American Academy of Ophthalmology Awards, , and Newsweek magazine’s “Best in Cancer Care”.

Recognizing gaps in the healthcare system, Dr. Cockerham founded the Let’s Face It Together Foundation in 2010. This non-profit provides medicines, surgical supplies, prosthetic devices and surgery for the underinsured working poor with oculofacial dysfunction, disfigurement and traumatic brain injury.

Dr. Cockerham’s clinical areas of interest include combatting aging changes, skin cancer and cancer behind the eye (orbital tumors tumors), thyroid eye disease, floppy eyelids due to sleep apnea, and eye dysfunction due to trauma and/or nerve damage.  She remains very committed to care for Veteran’s both within the Palo VAHCS and in the Central Valley of California. Dr. Cockerham’s research focus has been two-fold: (1) to study the impact of Blast Injury on ocular function and (2) to devise therapeutic devices to protect nerves, prevent inflammation and treat scarring.

Colonel (Ret. MC US Army) Dr. Robert A. Mazzoli M.D. FACS.

Colonel Robert A. Mazzoli, M.D. F.A.C.S., is the current Director of Education, Training, Simulation, and Readiness at the DoD-VA Vision Center of Excellence, Washington, D.C. His Army career spanned 34 years of active service in both the Signal and Medical Corps. He is a former Consultant in Ophthalmology to The Surgeon General of the Army, Chief and Chairman, Ophthalmology at Madigan Army Medical Center, Tacoma, WA.  A native of Louisville, Kentucky, he is a graduate of West Point and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland.  He received his ophthalmic training at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas (residency) and The Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Ophthalmic Plastic, Reconstructive, and Orbital Surgery).

Dr. Mazzoli is an active academic (Professor of Ophthalmology, U.S.U.H.S.), with well over 200 presentations at national and international meetings, and over 45 publications and book chapters. He is an active Fellow of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (A.S.O.P.R.S.), the American College of Surgeons, the Society for Simulation in Healthcare, the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, and the Wills Eye Hospital Society, among others, and is past-President of the Society of Military Ophthalmologists. He is a life member of the Katahdin Medical and Philosophical Society and is an examiner for both the American Board of Ophthalmology and A.S.O.P.R.S.  His academic interests include surgical simulation in education, telemedicine and advanced technologies, military ophthalmic readiness and regenerative medicine. His awards include the A.S.O.P.R.S. Wendell L. Hughes Award, A.A.O’s Secretariat, Achievement Honour and Senior Achievement Honour Awards, the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal, and Airborne wings.  Additionally, he has been awarded the military’s Honourable Order of St. Barbara, the Order of Military Medical Merit, and The Surgeon General’s “A” Proficiency Designator for Academic Excellence.

Major (Ret. U.S. Army) Dr. Thomas Zampieri Ph.D.

Major Thomas Zampieri is a graduate of Hahnemann University Physician Assistant Program in Philadelphia, he obtained Bachelor Science from State University of New York. Obtained Master Political Science from the University St. Thomas in 2003.  Completed his Ph.D. dissertation from Lacrosse University in Political Science in 2005, and was employed as the National Director of Government Relations for the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) from 2005-2013. In April 2002 he became Charter member of Pi Sigma Alpha National Political Science Honour Society and a current member of Academy of Political Science (APS) since 2005.

He was a clinical Physician Assistant (PA) for over 24 years, 18 in the Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers in Canandaigua, New York, Richmond, Virginia and Houston, Texas. During this time he was co-author of several different medical journal articles on urology, spinal cord injury, and was interviewed for PA news articles. He held clinical PA instructor appointments at Alderson-Broaddus College Department of Medical Sciences in West Virginia, and at Baylor College of Medicine, PA Program, in Houston, Texas from 1994 to 2001 and was appointed as Clinical Instructor in the Scott Department of Urology Baylor Surgery.

When employed as Department Veterans Affairs Physician Assistant he was appointed and served on PA Field Advisory Group 1990-1996 also during this period was appointed to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), National Academy of Science Committee on Department of Veterans Affairs Physician Staffing Requirements, and Non-Physician Practitioners Panel from 1990-1992.

Military service active duty U.S. Army from 1972 to 1975 as Army medic after graduation from Physician Assistant program he served from 1978 until 2000. Served as Board member of two other non-profits of the United States International Council on Disability (USICD) and Peace of Mind with Traumatic Brain Injury from 2013 to 2015. Is currently a member on Department of Defence Peer Review Committee on Vision Research Programme.

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