Dr. Bernard F. Godley, chairman of the department of ophthalmology and visual sciences at UTMB, recently was appointed to a prestigious national panel that helps shape policies regarding research to advance eye care.

Photo courtesy of Galveston Daily News


While Godley is proud to have been appointed to the National Advisory Eye Council, what really makes him smile is the thought of his Little Brother, Jaiden. “He’s a bright-eyed, happy 6-year-old boy,” says Godley, who is a volunteer Big Brother with the Gulf Coast Big Brothers and Big Sisters Inc. agency in Galveston.


Godley’s adventures with Jaiden have included fishing, boating, riding an elephant at Dickens on the Strand and an introduction to Sponge Bob Square Pants. “I wasn’t familiar with Sponge Bob before Jaiden,” Godley said, laughing.


Godley proudly shows photos of Jaiden he has stored on his Blackberry, smiling as he recounts his Little Brother’s sparkling personality. “We were walking on a fishing pier, and he went right up to a man who was fishing and said, ‘I’d really like to try that.’ So the next thing I know he has a pole and I am helping him reel in a fish,” he says, laughing. “I need to learn how to filet a fish, because I definitely think we will be doing more of that.”


In addition to fishing, Godley has helped Jaiden with math. “We were at Sonic and I used the tater tots to explain principles of addition and subtraction,” Godley says. “He understood that.”


As arranged by Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Godley has called Jaiden’s teacher to check on his progress and ask if there were other ways he could help with his schoolwork.


Photo courtesy of Galveston Daily News

Godley said that volunteering as a Big Brother can have a profound impact on a child’s life. “You know, it is really something, to be able to touch a child’s life. And Jaiden is such a bright, special boy. He just needs to know that someone believes in him and is interested in him.”


Godley recounts his experience at the annual Big Brothers and Big Sisters Christmas party. “Out of about 300 Big Brothers and Sisters there, I was the only African-American Big Brother present, and many of the children were African-American. I was surprised by that. It really brought home to me the need for African-American role models.”


Godley is an impressive role model. He earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in biology from Brown University, and earned a doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He earned his medical degree cum laude from Harvard Medical School, and completed an internship in Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.


He then completed a residency in ophthalmology at the University of Iowa, followed clinical fellowships. He was the Medical Retina Fellow, Moorfields Eye Hospital and Institute of Ophthalmology, University of London and as the Vitreoretinal Fellow, Retina Institute of Maryland. His latest accomplishment was when Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, appointed him to the National Advisory Eye Council.


And, at 51, he is one of the youngest medical school department chairmen at UTMB.


Of course, none of that really matters to the boy who calls Godley “Big Brother.” Clearly touched by Jaiden’s enthusiasm for their time spent together, Godley says, “I want to be a consistent presence in his life, someone he can count on. And when I take him home after our time together and he says ‘thank you Big Brother,’ well, that is really something.”


For more information on volunteering to be a Gulf Coast Big Brother or Big Sister, call 409-763-4638.