As a board member of Fight For Sight I can't help but have pride in what we do.....we fund research grants to scientists who are making great strides in many areas. Many of them will say that their career started with a Fight for Sight grant. We all ask that you be generous; go to our website and learn more about the wonderful things that we have done; and the many other things on the horizon. Nothing is more precious than one's sight. Join us in our effort to make the world a bit brighter for those who suffer from blinding eye diseases.
I volunteered as a high school student when Fight for Sight sought Volunteers. No w 45 years later here I am writing a review about why I am committed to their cause. The beauty of Fight for Sight is that its mission is clear and simple. It provides grants to those researching blinding eye diseases..their causes, hopefully their cures. It isn't sexy or large, but it's uniqueness is what has kept me involved all of these years and hopefully many more ahead.
Fight for Sight fills an important need in developing the careers of young people. It does so by funding research grants to undergraduate and graduate students working in the laboratory of a mentor (who are leading scientists), giving the exposure to an actual research project and experience in preparing a proposal. In addition, FFS funds grants to postdoctoral fellows to provide them with further training in research and proposal writing, again in laboratories of leading vision scientists. Finally, FFS also provides startup grants to new young faculty members to enable them to initiate their research programs. This latter function is particularly important as there are few avenues for new faculty to obtain outside funding. Grants from the NIH usually require significant amounts of preliminary data and FFS grants are one of the few ways new faculty members can gain the funding to obtain such data. Funding from FFS is important in helping to feed the pipeline of researchers and give future research stars a chance to succeed. The first research grant I received as a new faculty member (24 years ago) was from FFS and it was critical in helping me start my new laboratory. Since then I have become internationally recognized for the work that my laboratory has done and I have trained several doctoral students, residents, masters students, and visiting scientists. Because I feel FFS is so critical in helping to develop future vision scientists I have been volunteering to review grants for several years now and three years ago agreed to chair one of the review committees. Even though this requires a significant time committment it is important. FFS is unique in that there are few, if any, organizations that fill this particular niche.
FFS has a long and distinguished history of providing grant support to students and early career investigators (including post doctoral fellows) in the area of eye research. Their support in the field crosses many boundaries to include novel clinical paradigms, molecular biology, translational research and neuroscience, to name just a few. Over the past 50 years, FFS has supported many scientists who have become the leading researchers and clinicians of thier generation, and continues to do so. FFS grants fill a unique niche in the eye research space. It supports students in summer projects to provide unique opportunities to work with outstanding scientists to attract them into eye research careers. In addition it fills a great need with grant support for fellows and early career scientists for whom it is becoming increasingly difficult, if not impossible to compete at the NIH level. These gratn provide an important bridge and time for these scientists to mature personally and in their research programs to become competetive.
It has been a privilege for me to review proposals submitted by students and post-docs for FFS during the past three years. The mission of FFS to support eye and vision research by funding talented young researchers is highly commendable. FFS is a noble organization that deserves to be applauded for its efforts to fight against blindness and enhance our knowledge of vision by supporting promising scientists early in their careers.
FFS has a long history of work in the field of ophthalmology. Through their many programs, hundreds of ophthalmic researchers have been trained. Through my involvement, there will be a new element of support for public health interventions in blindness prevention. FFS is uniquely qualified to make this program a success.
I received a Fight for Sight grant-in-aid several years ago for my research in ocular stem cells. The grant was instrumental in helping me obtain preliminary results that led to a grant from the National Institutes of Health to combat retinoblastoma, a blinding and potentially fatal eye disease of childhood. The project continues to this day. I could not have made the progress that I did, if not for the financial support of Fight for Sight. A few years ago, I became a volunteer reviewer for Fight for Sight. The research grants that we review provide seed money to students, postdoctoral fellows, as well as established researchers (grants-in-aid). These grants support important vision-saving research. We review grants online and then gather from around the country to discuss the grants in person at the annual Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology meeting in Fort Lauderdale. I am always impressed by the professionalism and dedication of the staff. It feels good to be able to give back to an organization that was so helpful to me at a time when I needed those funds for my professional survival.