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HomemieventsA Decade of Devotion: MD Awareness

A Decade of Devotion: MD Awareness

(Click here to view all the images from this event)

The Macular Degeneration Foundation celebrated its 10-year anniversary with its single largest research commitment – the establishment of the Macular Degeneration Foundation Research Grants Program. The Program aims to raise $10 million over the next 10 years to help find a cure for blindness from the disease.

The announcement was made at a gala dinner in Sydney, which marked the beginning of Macular Degeneration Awareness Week (22-28 May).

Making the announcement, the Foundation’s CEO Julie Heraghty said, “We have taken up the challenge to find the reasons and answers for this disease with an initial research allocation of $1.5 million over the next three years. In addition, an annual AUD$40,000 postdoctoral fellowship will be awarded in honour of Dr. Paul Beaumont, the Foundation’s Founding Director.

The health minister announced… the grant of AUD$260 thousand for research into the eye disease by successful applicants, including a liberty to increase the amount to its maximum level of AUD$750 thousand over a three year period…

“This announcement marks a milestone for research and takes us a step closer to finding a cure. We need to see a future without Macular Degeneration. Government, the Macular Degeneration Foundation and the community need to support investment in research because, as our population quickly ages, very soon everyone will know someone who is at risk of blindness from this disease.

“A national survey commissioned by the Macular Degeneration Foundation shows that 90 per cent of Australians believe that the Federal Government should make spending on research to find a cure for Macular Degeneration a high priority,” said Ms. Heraghty.

The survey also found 89 per cent agree that donating to research on Macular Degeneration is a good way to help find a cure for this debilitating eye disease.

Members from Australia’s eye care and eye health profession, who attended the gala dinner, heard from high profile members of the Macular Degeneration Foundation including leading business woman, journalist, author and Patron of the Macular Degeneration Foundation, Ita Buttrose and Founding director and leading Australian retina specialist Dr Paul Beaumont.

In an engaging speech, Ms. Buttrose highlighted the foundation’s work in raising awareness of AMD. Back in February 2007 statistics suggested that 58 per cent of people aged 50 and over were aware of MD. In 2011 this number is believed to have increased to 85 per cent. “In the last 10 years the Foundation has achieved so much in building awareness about the importance of people having their eyes tested and macula checked on a regular basis, and about the positive benefits of nutrition and lifestyle as a preventative step to getting the disease. A massive investment in research could make a huge impact on saving the sight of Australians who are at risk of this disease,” she said.

Ms. Buttrose also announced winners from the foundation’s mEye World Photographic Competition, that required competitors to take a photograph of any scenery that conveyed the theme “eyes on the future”. Out of the four winners, the grand final prize went to Delma Wheatley who captured a magnificent tree erect in the middle of the vast Simpson Desert. Ms. Buttrose said that the image’s glorious luminosity, eruption of photographic colours and angle position swept the judges off their feet. All four photographs were put up for the silent auction.

Dr. Paul Beaumont spoke of recent research findings that suggest a more promising future for people with AMD. “Over the past decade significant advances have been made in better diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation,” he said.

“I never thought it would be possible in my lifetime to say to a patient that I could save their vision. It has been only through research that we have been able to do this and now further research may help us realise the dream – to find a cure.”

Later in the evening, the NSW Minister for Health and Research Hon Jillian Skinner MP, presented the 2011 MD Foundation Research Grants Programme. The health minister announced that the research programme would be committed to the grant of AUD$260 thousand for research into the eye disease by successful applicants, including a liberty to increase the amount to its maximum level of AUD$750 thousand over a three-year period.

An Evening of Entertainment
While there was plenty of information to digest across the evening, the gala dinner also provided ample entertainment and opportunities to network. Popular comedian, Jean Kittson, was hilarious as Master of Ceremonies and the 70’s singing sensation Kamahl showed he can still wow an audience with his melodic voice. The 76 year old singer was the face of the Macular Degeneration Foundation in its first national awareness campaign.

The night came to an end with the cutting of the cake, raffle draw and silent auction announcements. Several raffle prizes were given away ranging from Bridge Climb tickets to hairdressing salon vouchers. For the silent auction, lucky bidder, M. Catzan won mivision’s donated Telescope.