March 29, 2023

A Shared Vision for Better Eye Health in Hamilton, and Beyond

A grateful patient’s gift of $200,000 has secured a state-of-the-art Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) scanner for the Hamilton Regional Eye Institute at St. Joe’s. The new technology is helping to realize both the donor’s and his doctor’s shared vision to make St. Joe’s a leader in multi-national clinical trials in retinal diseases.

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From left to right: Mr. Tom Kevill, a grateful patient and donor, and Dr. Varun Chaudhary, Chief of Ophthalmology, in front of a plaque to thank and honour Mr. Kevill for his generous donation to St. Joe’s.

Last year, Tom Kevill was a patient at the Hamilton Regional Eye Institute at St. Joe’s receiving care for a detached retina – a serious condition that can lead to blindness, if left untreated, which was a frightening prospect for the retired chartered accountant.

“There never was a third option,” recalls Mr. Kevill, a St. Catharines resident. “It was either go blind or get surgery.”

This year, after a successful retinal re-attachment procedure that restored his eye health and vision, Mr. Kevill has returned to the Hospital to help unveil an innovative Vitreo-Retinal Surgery Research Unit that has opened with his support, and a plaque to commemorate his generous gift to St. Joe’s.

Grateful for the care he received from Dr. Varun Chaudhary, Chief of Ophthalmology at the Eye Institute, Mr. Kevill donated $200,000 to St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation to help the Eye Institute purchase a new OCT scanner, so that other patients can get the treatment they need to avoid vision loss.

Dr. Chaudhary calls the new combined structural OCT and OCT-angiogram scanner the “gold standard” in retinal imaging devices. The non-invasive technology works like a CT scanner but uses light instead of radiation to take high-resolution, cross-sectional images of the retina.

“The OCT scanner provides clinicians and researchers with very fine anatomical detail of each of the 10 layers of the retina in the back of the eye,” Dr. Chaudhary says. “This allows our team to pick up subtle signs of common eye conditions such as macular degeneration and diabetic eye disease early and start treatment early so that we can preserve as much vision as possible.”

Like many, Mr. Kevill was surprised to learn this new technology isn’t something that’s eligible for funding from the operating dollars St. Joe’s receives from the province.

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The OCT scanner provides clinicians and researchers with very fine anatomical detail of the retina for the early detection and intervention of serious eye conditions.

“Mr. Kevill’s generous donation is a vital step forward for the Eye Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital to become an international leader in clinical trials in the field of retina,” says Dr. Chaudhary, principal investigator for the innovative READ study.

The Vitreo-Retinal Research Unit will focus on leading high-impact studies on innovative treatments for age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and common surgical retinal diseases.

“A key aspect of all these research initiatives will be to precisely measure and quantify individual patient response to treatment and this OCT machine will be a critical step in those assessments,” says Dr. Chaudhary.

“With this donation, Mr. Kevill has catapulted St. Joe’s towards becoming a leader in retina disease research and patient care. We’re truly grateful for his gift and the opportunity it’s providing for St. Joe’s to collaborate on studies that will help patients facing eye diseases here in Hamilton and around the world.”

Asked why it was important for him to give back to St. Joe’s, Mr. Kevill broke it down into budgetary accounting. “I know that a lot of healthcare facilities have the budget to cover month-to-month operational expenses, but they may not have the money they need to cover the cost of capital expenses for new equipment,” he says. “So, when I learned from Dr. Chaudhary that the Eye Institute needed an upgraded OCT scanner to be eligible for clinical trials that would help patients, like me, I didn’t hesitate to give back to the Hospital that restored my vision. ”

About The Hamilton Regional Eye Institute

The Hamilton Regional Eye Institute provides healthcare services to adults with eye conditions and disorders in the greater Hamilton area, including Niagara and Brantford. The Institute also provides tertiary level emergency care for residents throughout South Central Ontario. Performing more than 7,000 surgical procedures each year, including: corneal transplant, cataract, vitreoretinal, oculo-plastic and glaucoma surgery, as well as more than 80,000 outpatient visits, the Hamilton Regional Eye Institute’s services are aimed at improving the vision of the residents we serve.

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