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The Mid-South Lions Club Improving Lives Through The Gift of Sight

Mid-South Lions CEO Brad Baker (left) makes a presentation to UTHSC Chancellor Steve Schwab.

The Mid-South Lions Club  may occupy only a small space in the lobby of the Hamilton Eye Institute (HEI) at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC),  but the group’s impact on the university’s ophthalmic community outreach efforts does not go unnoticed.

Across the nation, Lions Clubs assist indigent patients who need something beyond eyeglasses to help restore their vision. This usually requires surgery. The Mid-South Lions Club has partnered with area medical professionals and facilities to provide sight-saving surgeries at no cost to patients.

Ophthalmologists from the Memphis area, especially from UTHSC, helped to found the Mid-South Lions Club. It started in 1942, originally to provide comprehensive sight care at no cost to those in need from the Memphis area.

UTHSC ophthalmologists Louis Levy, MD, and E. C. Ellett, MD, were there in the beginning stages. Later, past Department of Ophthalmology Chairs Roger Hiatt, MD, Ralph Hamilton, MD, Barrett Haik, MD, FACS, and James Fleming, MD, FACS, fostered a deeper partnership with the Mid-South Lion’s Club, so that the resident clinic could have more opportunities for diverse cases to enhance their training.

From 1942 to 1975, the Mid-South Lions Club was housed in the Memphis Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic on Madison Avenue. In 1976, the organization moved in Methodist University Hospital, before relocating to its current location at the Hamilton Eye Institute in 2007.

A Mid-South Lions Club patient receives services from an HEI resident physician.

“The Mid-South Lions Club, Lions Clubs International Foundation, the Memphis Downtown Lions Club and Lions Clubs from throughout our service area have contributed over $600,000 to the Hamilton Eye Institute to provide equipment and support with cancers of the eye, low vision and the Dr. Barrett Haik Surgery Center,” said Brad Baker, CEO of the Mid-South Lions Club. “We have also expanded our service area to include Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, and all of West Tennessee. Discounted hearing aids are also provided to referred patients who receive services from the University of Memphis Speech and Hearing Department.”

“While the Ivan Marais Cataract-A-Thon has received the most notice recently, the everyday partnership with UTHSC helps provide vision to those in need through the resident clinic, the pediatric clinic, and the surgery center,” Baker said. “There are very few days that go by without Mid-South Lions patients being treated in the Hamilton Eye Institute.”

April is the Mid-South Lions Club’s biggest month. On April 12-13, it will host over 100 of its members from the service area for Lion Leaders Weekend. On April 12, attendees will learn about the hearing program and the Mid-South Eye Bank, also housed at UTHSC, before a barbecue dinner and a live and silent auctions. Brian Staron, a former Disney performer, will present his comedy magic show and serve as the auctioneer. On April 13, attendees will tour the Hamilton Eye Institute, 930 Madison, including the pediatric clinic, research floor, surgery center, and training simulator, and hear an account of the history of  the Mid-South Lions and a presentation about the Cataract-A-Thon in the Freeman Auditorium. The event will conclude with lunch.

Other upcoming events include the Mid-South Lions Golf Tournament on Friday, June 7, at Cherokee Valley in Olive Branch, Mississippi, and the 2019 Ivan Marais Cataract-A-Thon on June 22 -23.