With a commitment to improving treatment of patients with serious retinal diseases, the VitreoRetinal Surgery Foundation was established in 2005 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charitable organization. The mission of the VitreoRetinal Surgery Foundation is to promote research and education related to retinal and macular disease. We promote research by funding awards for young investigators with a potential for a career devoted to retinal disease and research. We promote professional education by sponsoring courses designed for medical professionals including ophthalmologists, optometrists, residents, fellows, students and technicians. We promote community outreach education by raising awareness of retinal diseases, treatment options and available resources.
The VitreoRetinal Surgery Foundation has a board of directors composed of representative physicians from Retina Consultants of Minnesota, academic and community ophthalmologists as well as non-physician community leaders. The VitreoRetinal Surgery Foundation solicits donations from professional colleagues, patients and families affected by retinal disease as well as the general public. Educational grants are also solicited from the ophthalmic business community to support courses and seminars. All donations to the VitreoRetinal surgery Foundation are tax deductible. The VitreoRetinal Surgery Foundation is entirely separate from Retina Consultants of Minnesota.
From its inception, the VitreoRetional Surgery Foundation has primarily focused on its research program. Our Research Program is open to medical students, residents and fellows at ophthalmology training programs and fulltime research trainees at academic centers. At first, we worked with training centers in the upper Midwest including the University of Minnesota, The Mayo Clinic, the University of Iowa, the University of Wisconsin Madison and the Medical College of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Since then, we have grown to include a total of 29 private practice based and university-based training programs across the country.
We offer two types of research grants. Our Research Award is designed for ophthalmology residents and fellows who want to pursue a research project during their clinical training. The award consists of a research stipend of $2,000 together with an additional $1,000 for research related expenses and $1,000 for travel expenses to present research results at a national symposium. Our Research Fellowship is designed for someone involved in full-time research at an academic institution pursuing an advanced degree such as a PhD or MD/PhD. The fellowship has a stipend of $10,000 and an additional $1,000 for travel expenses to present research results at a national symposium.
Each year, beginning in July we solicit applications from our 29 affiliated training programs. Applications are reviewed by our Board of Directors. The application process is competitive with approximately half of the applications selected for an award or fellowship. Research grants are announced in November with the projects expected to be completed in one year. We encourage our investigators to present their research results at a national symposium, usually the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) which meets annually in May. Investigators may also go on to publish their results in peer reviewed journals. The presentation and publication process usually takes more than a year. Each investigator is required to file a Research Progress Report at the end of the grant year. Currently, we have 18 research projects underway at 11 training centers.
The success of our Research Program can be measured by the number of presentations of research results at national meetings and publication of research manuscripts by peer reviewed journals. Research results are frequently cited in academic and professional publications. Results of presentations are sometimes picked up by local or national media. Published manuscripts are available to the academic and research community through the PubMed search engine, and most journal articles are available to members of the ophthalmology profession through open-source journal access. So far, there have been 137 presentations and 87 publications resulting from our research program.
In addition, the VRSF has sponsored The Primary Retinal Detachment Outcomes (PRO) Study. This research project began in 2016 under the direction of Edwin Ryan Jr, MD, its principal investigator, and RCM physicians. It has been funded by a grant from the Allina Foundation, Minneapolis MN, to the VRSF. The PRO Study compiled a large, comprehensive observational dataset from patients who underwent repair of retinal detachment in 2015 at six study centers across the country. 61 vitreoretinal surgeons participated in this study. Nearly 3000 cases of primary retinal detachment were entered in the study database. The dataset has now been analyzed to determine pre-operative, intra-operative and post-operative characteristics which impact the outcome of primary retinal detachment surgery. The results of the PRO Study have been widely disseminated throughout the ophthalmic community and will strongly influence the management of retinal detachment for years to come. The PRO study has, so far, resulted in 9 presentations at national and international symposia and 17 publications in peer-reviewed journals.
The VRS Foundation sponsors the annual Retinal Update continuing education conference. This has been the primary educational activity of the VRSF and has occurred annually for the past 27 years. The target audience is practicing ophthalmologists and optometrists in the upper Midwest. Presentations are given by RCM physicians, as well as an invited national recognized speaker. This conference is accredited by the Minnesota Medical Association for 4 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits. The ophthalmic business community has financially supported the conference and exhibits their latest innovations. It is the only conference specifically addressing diseases of the retina and macula in our region each year.
The VitreoRetinal Surgery Foundation is committed to raising awareness of retinal disease in our community and to the general public. Retinal disease affects more than 10 million Americans and millions more throughout the world. Individuals and their families fear the loss of vision more than almost any other medical condition. Since retinal disease is the most common cause of irreversible visual loss, we remain focused on the prevention, early detection, treatment and visual rehabilitation. We strive to share the latest research and advancements in the causes of retinal disease and provide access to resources for diagnosis and treatment by eye care professionals and retina specialists. While there have been remarkable advances in the management and treatment of retinal disorders, much more work needs to be done.