2012 Global Health Organization: SightLIfe



When founded in 1969, the nonprofit known as the Northwest Lions Eye Bank was one of many sources for corneal tissue sponsored by Lions Clubs across the country. Since 2006, however, President and CEO Monty Montoya has led the regional provider now named SightLife to its status as a global leader in the restoration of sight. By its 40th anniversary in 2009, SightLife facilitated the transplantation of 3,621 corneas that year—roughly nine per day. Yet the number seemed to Montoya far too modest when compared with the 10 million blind people worldwide who could be cured. Ninety percent of those, he knew, live in developing countries.

“We had to look at the problem differently,” Montoya says, “to create local solutions that we could rapidly scale up.”

The new approach was to provide tools and best practices to partner organizations in target countries that could develop local tissue supplies and resources. This required bringing aboard new talent that could understand the challenges. One of those key hires was Tim Schottman, a veteran Starbucks executive who had helped develop the data-driven techniques the coffee retailer uses to decide where to open a new store. As SightLife’s chief global officer, he applied those methods to identifying regions where corneal transplant efforts could succeed.

“If you don’t have the infrastructure available [in the target country],” Montoya explains, “you can spend a lot of money and time to get limited results.”

Their analysis identified India as the best prospect. India has the largest number of people with curable corneal blindness of any nation—an estimated 2.5 million individuals. With well-developed medical facilities and skills, India already performs around 17,000 corneal transplants each year; Schottman’s analysis suggests the country has the surgical capacity to perform six times as many. By midsummer 2011, all of SightLife's international partners (nine in India, one in Nepal and one in Paraguay), had facilitated 5,622 corneal transplants.



Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, Seattle
With a staff approaching 400 and a budget exceeding $40 million, Seattle Biomed has fully realized the potential envisioned in 1976 when Ken Stuart started a small nonprofit in Issaquah to research infectious diseases. More important, it has produced outstanding results. Breakthroughs include using an innovative approach—gene deletion—to create a new malaria vaccine, devising a method to show how long-term nonprogressors are able to control HIV infection without anriretroviral therapy, and implementing a systems biology approach helping scientists to predict whether a drug or vaccine will work before starting expensive human trials. — Steve Wehrly

Infectious Disease Research Institute, Seattle
IDRI tackles global health problems by developing vaccines and creating simple, accurate and cost-effective diagnostic tools and treatments for individuals suffering diseases of poverty. Its product-based approach to health care is part of a global movement toward translational medicine, which blurs the line between basic and applied research. Translational medicine and IDRI’s work emphasize cross-disciplinary collaboration and parlaying research into meaningful outcomes. These outcomes run the gamut from screening procedures for the United States blood supply to vaccines for black fever, tuberculosis and leprosy, all of which have attracted the attention of the international health community. — Sarah Dewey


How Vacuum Systems Will Change the Landscape for Health Care Facilities

How Vacuum Systems Will Change the Landscape for Health Care Facilities


Sponsored by MacDonald-Miller

The Polyclinic Northgate wanted to do something that had never been done before — create a medical clinic that could be rearranged in a weekend, located in virtually any building, and most importantly, a place that would not cost a lot to change in the future. How could there be a flexible system with the constraints that sewer lines currently impose on existing facilities? The Polyclinic turned to its mechanical contractor, MacDonald-Miller, to come up with a solution.

We interviewed Steve Amann, project executive, to find out how vacuum plumbing systems will revolutionize the healthcare industry.  

What is the vacuum system solution?

Vacuum plumbing is a modular drainage system, which allows for immediate and future room reconfigurations. Rather than the standard protocol of requiring slab penetrations to accommodate gravity drainage, vacuum piping serving waste fixtures is installed in overhead spaces, delivering wastewater to a central vacuum center that exits the building at a single, convenient location. 

How will this flexible system change the healthcare industry?

The vacuum system is the first ever application of its kind in a medical clinic utilizing demountable, movable interior walls. Now medical clinic spaces can be remodeled at a fraction of the time and cost formerly required given standard plumbing and fixed walls. This efficiency provides new opportunities for business while maximizing revenue. Now, health care teams can drive project decisions, rather than decisions being made by the constraints of an existing space layout, or lack of plumbing infrastructure.

How will it change the landscape for healthcare facilities?

Medical clinics can now be located in nontraditional locations, such as standard office buildings with lower lease rates than designated-use medical office buildings.

What is the environment and financial impact?

The environmental impact of vacuum toilets is substantially less compared to standard low-flush toilets. With only half a gallon per flush, tenants realize big savings on their water and sewer costs. The system also prevents waste pipe leaks, which occur in gravity-driven systems and contribute to a deterioration of a building’s health over time.

With the ever-changing nature of the health care industry and mounting price pressure, the combination of demountable walls and vacuum plumbing creates flexibility and provides long-term economic benefits — two elements which are in high demand within this emerging industry. 

MacDonald-Miller Facility Solutions is a full-service, design-build, mechanical contractor in the Pacific Northwest. Learn more about MacDonald-Miller’s recent projects.