Blind Veterans UK to Host U.S. Veterans May 21-27 in London To Raise Awareness about War-Related Vision Injuries

Four Gulf War I and Gulf War II era blinded veterans from the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) will share knowledge, experiences, and friendship with five Blind Veterans UK comrades, and two South African war-blinded St. Dunstan’s members next week to raise public awareness about military-related vision injuries. The exchange will take place in London and Brighton, England, during the seven days together. Known as Project Gemini, the exchange is now in its seventh year.

Joining the exchange to speak about vision loss due to blast injuries will be three internationally known veteran ophthalmologists as guest speakers at a public education “Life Beyond Sight Loss” seminar May 24 at the Victory Services Club in London. They will discuss veterans’ eye trauma, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) vision conditions, and joint efforts with trauma research. Wednesday morning the group will meet American Embassy senior staff to discuss the possibility of establishing a research exchange. Today 70 percent of those suffering from blast TBI’s complain of vision conditions and 15 percent of those evacuated have sustained eye injuries on the battlefield so more needs to be done.

The presenters are Colonel Robert Mazzoli, M.D. (Ret.), now Director of Trauma Education at the joint Department of Defense/Department of Veterans Affairs Vision Center of Excellence; Colonel Glenn Cockerham, M.D. (Ret.), Chief of VA Ophthalmology Services; and Lieutenant Colonel Kimberly Cockerham M.D. (Ret.), Clinical Professor at the Stanford University Department of Ophthalmology Oculofacial Plastics. The program includes the Surgeon General British Defense Medical Services Vice Admiral Alasdair Walker and Dr. Renata Gomes, Director of Research and Innovation at Blind Veterans UK.

Wednesday morning the Project Gemini group will visit the residence of the American Ambassador to discuss the connection among the allies since World War I in the area of vision injuries and rehabilitation services, along with plans for increased cooperation in conjunction with Project Gemini. The Charge D’Affaires Lewis Lukins, the Cultural Attaché Anneliese Reinemeyer, and Minister Counsellor for public relations Eric Johnson are meeting with the Project Gemini veterans, three U.S. surgeons, and Dr. Gomes.

Project Gemini was initiated in May 2011, named for the transatlantic cable that connects the United States and the United Kingdom, is a joint initiative between the nonprofit organizations BVA, BVUK, and St Dunstan’s. Expanding the exchanges to include meetings with officials of the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, Moorfields Eye Research Center, and UK Defense medical officials.

The exchange will address the approach in treatments of eye injuries and policy goals among the three countries. It will further examine common historical events with respect to vision rehabilitation programs for veterans from World War I to the present. April 6, 2017 marked the Centennial anniversary of U.S involvement in the war.

U.S. veterans participating in Project Gemini will also share coping with blindness and their personal peer support adjustment through rehabilitation. Operation Iraqi Freedom participants are Army Sergeant Russ Nelson, Army Lieutenant Colonel Kathy Champion, Gulf War I U.S. Marine Corp Staff Sergeant Kevin Jackson, and Gulf War I and II Marine Corps Sergeant Dan Standage. Army Major Tom Zampieri (Ret.) is coordinating the trip on behalf of BVA’s Operation Peer Support Committee and as a member of the organization’s Board of Directors.

BVA traces its roots to a March 28, 1945 meeting at Avon (Connecticut) Old Farms Convalescent Hospital servicemen who had lost their sight during World War II. Blind Veterans UK is a national charity for visually impaired ex-servicemen and women with 102 years of service to blind veterans and their families.

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Research and Innovation Seminar Series: Life Beyond Sight Loss | 24 May 2017 | Victory Services Club
12.45 – 13.10: Registration and refreshments.
13.15 – 13.30: Welcome – Major General (Ret. Army Air Corps) Nick Caplin CB, Chief Executive, Blind Veterans UK.
13.30 – 13.45: Address by the Surgeon General of the British Defence Medical Services –Surgeon Vice Admiral Alasdair Walker, OBE, QHS, FRCS
13.45 – 14.10: Sight loss and the brain – Dr. Heidi Baseler Ph.D., Principal Investigator and Lecturer in Imaging Sciences, Centre for Neuroscience, The University of York.
14.10 – 14.35: Shell shock and traumatic brain injuries with sight loss – Colonel (Ret. U.S. Air Force) Dr. Glenn Cockerham M.D., Chief of Department Veterans Affairs Ophthalmology Services.
14.35 – 15.00: Advanced technology for stabilization and restoration of vision in military ocular injuries – Lt. Colonel (Ret. U.S. Army) Dr. Kimberly Cockerham M.D. FACS., Adjunct Associate Clinical Professor, Stanford University Department of Ophthalmology Oculofacial Plastics, Orbit and Neuro-Ophthalmology, Palo Alto VAHPS.
15.00 – 15.30: Coffee break
15.30 – 15.55: Advances in military ocular and combat casualty care – Translating lessons learned in war to peacetime practice – Colonel (Ret. MC US Army) Dr. Robert A. Mazzoli M.D. FACS., Director of Education, Training, Simulation at the DoD-V.A. Vision Centre of Excellence Washington DC.
15.55 – 16.15: Veterans blind rehabilitation services from First World War to today – Major (Ret. U.S. Army) Dr. Thomas Zampieri Ph.D., Blinded Veterans Association, Operation Peer Support and Project Gemini Coordinator.
16.15 – 17.00: Panel discussion – Traumatic brain injury, what’s next? Chair: Major General (Ret.) Nick Caplin CB Panel Members: Mr. Ian Sherriff, Dr. Kimberly Cockerham, Dr. Thomas Zampieri, Dr. Glenn Cockerham, Dr. Robert A. Mazzoli.
17.00 – 17.10: Panel discussion – Traumatic brain injury, what’s next? Chair: Major General (Ret.) Nick Caplin CB Panel Members: Mr. Ian Sherriff, Dr. Kimberly Cockerham, Dr. Thomas Zampieri, Dr. Glenn Cockerham, Dr. Robert A. Mazzoli.
17.00 – 17.10: Closing remarks – Dr. Renata Gomes, Head of Research and Innovation, Blind Veterans UK.
17.10 – 19.00 Drinks and canapé reception.