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First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross

6/06/2017: Special Session; Drones; The Raintree; Corneal Transplants


  Today on “First Coast Connect,” we talked about the future of Visit Florida with Robert Skrob (01:02), executive director of the Florida Association of Destination Marketing Organizations. We learned about the future of the use of drones with Jameson Rice (21:34), associate with the law firm Holland and Knight. Our latest edition of “Movable Feast” hosted by Leigh Cort of the Women’s Food Alliance features Lorna McDonald (36:40) from St. Augustine’s The Raintree restaurant. Dr. Arun Gulani (46:23) from Gulana Vision Care talks about how corneal transplants might become a thing of the past.  


Visit Florida Special Session

A special session gets underway Wednesday in Tallahassee, and one of the big issues lawmakers will try to tackle is the fight over tourism marketing. During the regular session, Visit Florida saw its budget cut by 67 percent. As part of the deal, lawmakers agreed to bring its funding back up to its current level of $76 million but the debate about better ways to promote tourism in the state continues.     


As of January, more than 600,000 people had registered drones with the Federal Aviation Administration, compared to only 200,000 registered manned aircraft nationwide. Last year, the FAA put rules into place saying, among other things, that people cannot operate drones carelessly or recklessly or fly above areas with crowds of people. Drones have great potential benefits for both recreational and commercial use but as they become more common there are concerns regarding safety and privacy.

‘Moveable Feast’ — The Raintree

In 1979, British adventurer Tristan MacDonald, his wife and two teenagers sold their house, business, and all of their belongings. They left behind their coastal hometown of Penzance, England, and headed for the U.S on their 45-foot yacht. The voyage lasted more than a year.

Once they got to St. Augustine, they opened a restaurant, The Raintree, with no experience. Nearly 40 years later, The Raintree is still family owned and operated.

Corneal Implants

More than 40,000 corneal transplants are performed in the U.S. and many more worldwide. The procedure involves replacing a damaged cornea with a donor cornea, which involves a long rehabilitation process along with less than perfect vision at the end. But recent advances are proving that most patients can actually regenerate the living layer of their cornea and heal themselves without a transplant. Gulani has performed this technique on a local patient who has recovered vision without a transplant. This patient is the first in the world. Gulani will be sharing his work with eye surgeons from around the globe at the National Academy of Eye Surgeon's conference in Los Angeles next week.

Kevin Meerschaert can be reached at, 904-358-6334 or on Twitter at @KMeerschaertJax