As a patient-led organisation our Board of Directors must consist of a majority of patients or patient representatives. Each director works in a voluntary capacity, donating their time to the organisation.
Kevin Bowers, Chairman
Kevin Bowers has nine years experience as a senior executive coach. Formerly Plant Manager of Becton Dickinson, he then joined Baxter Healthcare, becoming General Manager of Ireland, Vice President of European Operations, and then Vice President of Corporate Supply Chain Management in their Chicago-based Corporate Headquarters.
In 2001 he left the corporate environment to establish his own consultancy business. As the current leader of Praesta Ireland, he is a member of Praesta’s International Board and Chairman of the International Standards Committee. He has coached in most sectors of Irish business, including Financial Services, Healthcare Technology, Pharmaceutical, Electronic, Professional Services, Media, Environmental, and many small/medium enterprises (SMEs). In recent times he has developed a significant practice in team coaching.
He holds an MA from Trinity College, Dublin, and is a Master Coach accredited by Middlesex University. He serves on the Board of Fighting Blindness because in it he recognised the potential for an Irish-based organisation to play a role on the international research stage and wanted to work with incredible and inspirational people.
Ronan Holahan, Treasurer
Ronan trained as a Chartered Accountant and has spent most of his career in consumer financial services in a variety of commercial and risk management roles.
Members of Ronan’s extended family were first diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) around 40 years ago. More recently, Ronan’s young daughter was diagnosed with RP.
In early 2011, there was a significant breakthrough in identifying the carrier gene that causes RP in the Griffith family (the RPE65 gene). Ronan and his family members are raising funds to continue research into the family condition in the hope that a therapy can be developed.
Ronan’s family condition undoubtedly motivated him to become involved with Fighting Blindness, and he joined the Board of Fighting Blindness in August 2011.
Patricia Burke, Secretary
A career banker, Michael retired in 1996 to become Chief Executive of Fighting Blindness, an organisation he co-founded in 1983 to fund research into treatments and cures for blindness. Retiring his position as Chairman of Fighting Blindness in December 2012, he has worked for nearly three decades to advocate patient involvement in developing research for rare and genetic conditions. Michael has been instrumental in developing Irish and European organisations and securing millions of Euros for medical research.
In addition to his work with Fighting Blindness, Michael is also actively involved with a number of prestigious European organisations. He has been an active member of Retina International for over twenty-five years. He held an 18-month chair of the European Platform for Patients’ Organisations, Science and Industry (EPPOSI) and helped establish the Irish Platform for Patients’ Organisations, Science and Industry (IPPOSI) and Medical Research Charities Group (MRCG). He is a two-term member of the Health Research Board from 2002-2005 and 2006-2009. He served as a Board Director of the European Disability Forum for two years and chaired the Stakeholders Forum of the European Bio Banking and Molecular Resources Infrastructure (BBMRI) from 2009-2011. Michael Griffith also co-founded and chaired DEBRA Ireland, an organisation promoting research into Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB).
In 2009, Michael Griffith received an honorary degree of Doctor of Science from Trinity College, Dublin, in recognition of his vast contribution to the promotion of research in Ireland and abroad.
Dr Ena Prosser
Dr. Ena Prosser is a PhD Biotechnologist with a broad background in international alliance and intellectual property management. She has led rigorous due diligence projects on technologies and products within the specialty pharma, diagnostic, device and biotechnology areas. Ena is a partner in Fountain Healthcare Partners, where she was part of a team that raised €75 million.
Ena was formerly Director of Enterprise Ireland BIO, where she led a team who focused on commercialising lifescience technologies. Prior to Enterprise Ireland, Ena held various R&D and project management roles within Elan Corporation and had extensive involvement in drug delivery development, licensing and acquisition projects.
Ena has a strong innovation policy background and was a member of the Irish Government Innovation Taskforce in Intellectual Property, as well as being a council member of the Irish BioIndustry Association. She led the investments and is a board member of Genable Ltd, and Trino Therapeutics Ltd. Ena is an Adjunct Professor at University College Dublin, works with several universities and is a member of the Institute of Directors.
Ena intends to use her experience and network to assist the Fighting Blindness team in translating early stage research into approved therapies, given that research funded by Fighting Blindness is now close to formal clinical trials.
Gerry Kerr was a teacher and assistant principal for twenty six years before having to retire early due to a visual disability. He is currently a Director on the Board of Fighting Blindness. His other voluntary work includes work for the Irish Guide Dogs Association and the NCBI.
He returned to University to successfully complete post graduate studies in Workplace Mediation. Although travelling nationwide with mediation, motivational speaking and training, he lives with his wife and family in Dublin.
Of his involvement with Fighting Blindness, Gerry says, “The Insight Counselling Centre in Fighting Blindness helped me at a time when I really needed it. As time went on I became more and more involved with the organisation and am now delighted to be a member of the Board.”
Gerard Comerford has been an airline pilot for 33 years. The majority of his career was spent with Aer Lingus, where he was also an instructor and Check Captain. He has also worked for Malaysia Airlines, Jet Airways in India and currently works for Turkish Airlines. The Comerford family have been “Puppy Walkers”, training Guide Dogs since 2007.
Ger first became involved with Fighting Blindness in 2008, when his then 11-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Stargardt Disease. Ger said, “Coming to terms with the sudden onset of her condition, its incurable nature and the immediate impact on her life and education was difficult. That’s when we discovered the Insight Counselling Centre and Fighting Blindness. Mary Lavelle was a godsend in helping us at that stage.”
In 2009, Ger took part in our Everest Base Camp Trek. With the help of his extended family and friends, he raised a significant sum, making particular use of the internet, where he created his own website and promoted it through various social media. He has worked with our fundraising team ever since.
Ger said, “To me, Fighting Blindness provides SUPPORT for people who are visually impaired and their families through counselling and HOPE for the future through research. It is a great source of information and keeps me up to date with worldwide research related to my daughter’s condition and many others. I have learned so much from attending Fighting Blindness AGMs and Seminars. It gives me the opportunity to speak first hand to leading researchers and doctors, staff, other visually impaired people and their families. It is an amazing organisation of dedicated people and I am delighted to have been asked to serve on the Board.”
Mr David Keegan
David Keegan is a Consultant Vitreo-retinal Surgeon at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Dublin since October 2006.
A graduate of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1994 he attained a Masters in Anatomy from UCD in 1996. He trained at Moorfield’s Eye Hospital London (1997 – 2005) and completed his PhD in retinal transplantation from University College London (1999 – 2002). He completed his vitreo-retinal training with Prof Stanley Chang at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, New York (2005 – 2006).
He is a member of the Irish College of Ophthalmologists Council and Chaired the Manpower Training and Education Committee. He currently sits on the board of the National Council for the Blind. His clinical interests include management of surgical retinal disease and patients with age related macular degeneration and inherited retinal disease, including use of the Intra-ocular Magnifying Telescope.
His research interests are in the early immunological response to sub-retinal transplants. His clinical research interests are in the discovery of Biomarkers in age-related macular degeneration, clinical trials in anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) therapies along with the development of the National Inherited Retinal Disease Register as Chair of the Ophthalmology Division, Dublin Centre for Clinical Research, Molecular Medicine Ireland, Dublin. He is on the organising committee of the Fighting Blindness Retina Conference.
Mary was a founding member of Fighting Blindness in 1983. She joined the Insight Counselling Centre when it opened in 2002 and worked as Senior Counselling Manager there until she retired in April 2014. She joined the Board of Directors shortly after her retirement.
Keeping the need of the patient/client central to all that we do is a core value of Fighting Blindness. Mary has been exemplary in embodying this philosophy; not only in the way she established and developed the Insight Counselling Centre but also in the way she has worked to support the development of Fighting Blindness since its inception in 1983.
Colette works as a Chartered Accountant and has held various senior roles in industry. She currently works in the financial sector.
Colette’s family were diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa around 40 years ago. Colette previously served on the board of Fighting Blindness from 2003 to 2010. She has raised funds for FB by participating in treks to Thailand, South America and Patagonia. She continues to raise funds to help find a cure through her connections in industry.
Dr Tom Clonan is a Trinity Graduate (B.Ed – 1987). Tom grew up in Finglas in Dublin and now lives in Booterstown, Co. Dublin. He has a family of four children. One of his children, Eoghan, (13) suffers from a neuro-muscular disease. The story of Eoghan and his Assistance Dog ‘Duke’ features in a moving and award winning RTE Documentary, ‘Superdog’ (2012).
Dr. Tom Clonan lectures in the School of Media DIT. He lectures in Journalism, Political Communication, Public Affairs and Research Methodology.
He is one of Ireland’s foremost Whistleblowers. As an Army Officer in Ireland’s Armed Forces, Dr. Clonan completed ground-breaking doctoral research on the Irish Defence Forces (2000). His PhD led to an independent government enquiry, ‘The Study Review Group’ which reported in 2003. This report fully vindicated his research findings and recommendations as they applied to bullying, sexual harassment and the sexual assault of soldiers within Ireland’s armed forces. Dr. Clonan’s work has transformed the equality culture of the Irish Armed Forces with identifiable and measurable benefits for over 20,000 full time and part time soldiers, sailors and aircrew.
Dr. Clonan is also Security Analyst with the Irish Times – along with national and international broadcasters – where he provides in-depth defence and military analysis of fast-moving international events. Captain Tom Clonan has direct experience of armed conflict in Ireland, the Middle East and former Yugoslavia (Bosnia).