April 2023

Dear Alumni, Faculty, and Friends,

We hope you enjoy this issue of the NEEC newsletter! In this issue, we welcome many new members to the NEEC team. On April 3rd, Reza Vagefi, MD officially started as our department’s new Chairman, and we hear from him below in the “Note from the Chairman section”. Additionally, we have added four other new faculty members in our cornea, retina, uveitis, and oculoplastics departments. We catch up on some recent “extracurricular” activities of our faculty, and, in our “From the Archives” section, Dr. Thomas Hedges shares a profile of Dr. Abe Pollen, a graduate of Tufts Medical School and beloved ophthalmic educator at Tufts and MEEI.

We would love to hear from our alumni with any of your own updates or suggestions for future newsletter features. Please keep in touch at [email protected].


Astrid Werner, MD, and Laurel Vuong, MD

Note from the Chairman: Reza Vagefi, MD

Dear Alumni, Faculty, and Friends, 

It is a great pleasure to join the New England Eye Center and Tufts Medicine as your new Chair of Ophthalmology. I am honored to take on this role and to have the opportunity to work with such a talented and dedicated team of physicians, learners, and staff.

Chairman Reza Vagefi, MD

I am eager to partner with all of you to advance the mission of NEEC. Together, we will work to ensure that our patients receive the highest quality of care, and that our research and educational programs continue to grow and advance the field of ophthalmology.

One of my key priorities as Chair will be to foster an environment of collaboration and innovation. By working together, we can achieve great things and assure the training of diverse, compassionate, and skilled ophthalmologists. I look forward to hearing your ideas and perspectives on how we can build upon the successes of the NEEC under the tremendous leadership of Dr. Jay Duker. His visionary stewardship over the past twenty years has positioned the department well, and we are fortunate that he will remain a part of the faculty. I also appreciate the service of Dr. Pedram Hamrah in overseeing the department during this period of transition.

To our alumni, I want to express my gratitude for your continued support of NEEC. Your contributions to our community have been important in shaping the success of our department. We wish to continue to build on these relationships in the years ahead.

Thank you for your dedication to the field of ophthalmology and for your commitment to the NEEC. It is with great enthusiasm for the opportunities which lie ahead, that I look forward to working with all of you to achieve our shared goals.


M. Reza Vagefi, MD
Professor and Chair, Department of Ophthalmology
Director, New England Eye Center
Tufts Medicine

Pedram Hamrah, MD

The NEEC faculty extends a sincere thank you to Pedram Hamrah MD for his service to our department over the past year and a half.

We appreciate Dr. Hamrah’s hard work to ensure the department continued to grow during an exceptionally challenging time, and his stewardship through many major changes. We look forward to continuing on the positive path Dr. Hamrah set for us, and expanding on the many initiatives he undertook for us as our chair. 

NEEC faculty

Welcome Victoria North, MD!

Victoria North, MD

We are very pleased that Victoria North, MD joined the New England Eye Center as a full-time oculo-plastics specialist as of August 1, 2022. Dr. North is a graduate of Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons. She completed her residency in ophthalmology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, followed by a fellowship in ophthalmic plastic and reconstructive surgery at New York City Combined ASOPRS Fellowship.   Her surgical interests include ptosis; eyelid malposition; brow and forehead lifts; thyroid eye disease; cancers of the eyelid and orbit; and lacrimal/tear drainage disorders in both adult and pediatric patients. She also specializes in non-surgical facial rejuvenation with neurotoxin (Botox) and soft-tissue fillers.

Dr. North will be available for consultations on Thursday’s and Friday’s in our Boston location.

You can read Dr. North’s full bio here.

Welcome Peter Zhao, MD!

Peter Zhao, MD

We are pleased to welcome Peter Zhao, MD as a vitreoretinal surgeon and Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at Tufts Medical Center and Tufts University School of Medicine. He specializes in diagnosing and treating many different retinal diseases including age-related macular degeneration, inherited retinal degenerations, diabetic retinopathy, retinal vein occlusion, retinal tear, retinal detachment, macular hole, and epiretinal membrane.

Dr. Zhao obtained his undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College and medical degree from Yale University School of Medicine. He completed ophthalmology residency at the W.K. Kellogg Eye Center of the University of Michigan, receiving the Aizman Award for academic and clinical excellence. After residency, he remained at the Kellogg Eye Center to complete a one-year fellowship in inherited retinal degenerations funded by the Foundation Fighting Blindness, and a two-year fellowship in vitreoretinal surgery funded by the Heed Ophthalmic Foundation.

You can read Dr. Zhao’s full bio here.

Welcome Azin Abazri, MD!

Azin Abazri, MD

We are pleased to welcome Azin Abazari, MD as a member of our cornea and refractive faculty. Dr. Abazari specializes in the medical and surgical management of cornea, external disease and cataracts. Her clinical interests include cornea and ocular surface disease, cataract surgery including femtosecond refractive cataract surgery, corneal transplantation (penetrating keratoplasty, DSEK, DMEK, and keratoprosthesis), pediatric cornea and cataract surgery, and laser refractive surgery.

Dr. Abazari completed her Ophthalmology residency training at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA, and then went on to complete a cornea and external disease fellowship at Wills Eye Institute in Philadelphia, PA. Dr. Abazari previously held a position at Stony Brook Medical Center in Stony Brook, NY.

She will be seeing patients in our Boston, Brookline and Wellesley offices. You can read her full bio here.

Welcome Lianna Valdes, MD!

Lianna Valdes, MD

We are delighted to welcome Lianna Valdes, MD to our faculty as a uveitis specialist and comprehensive ophthalmologist. She completed her ophthalmology residency at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY, and then went on to complete an ocular immunology and uveitis fellowship at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston.

Dr. Valdes also has a particular interest in education and will be leading our resident surgical curriculum in the wet lab.

Dr. Valdes is seeing patients in our Boston, Wellesley, Brookline, Framingham, Cambridge and Brighton locations.

Sarwat Salim Elected President of MSEPS

Sarwat Salim, MD, FACS

Sarwat Salim, MD, FACS elected president of the Massachusetts Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons

Congratulations to Dr. Salim, the Director of the NEEC Glaucoma Service, Professor of Ophthalmology, and Vice Chair of Clinical and Academic Affairs, on her election to lead the Massachusetts Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons (MSEPS). For 50 years, MSEPS has promoted and enhanced the practice of ophthalmology and has been a strong advocate for eye health and safety.

The next MSEPS annual meeting will be held on Wednesday, May 17th 2023 from 6:00-8:00 PM at the Massachusetts Medical Society 860 Winter Street Waltham, MA 02451

You can register for the meeting hereYou can learn more about the important work that MSEPS does here.

Shilpa Desai, MD awarded research grant by the AUPO

Shilpa Desai, MD awarded research grant by the AUPO

Shilpa Desai, MD, member of our Retina department, and Director of Medical Student Education for the Department of Ophthalmology, was awarded the “Directors of Medical Student Education Council Research Grant” at this year’s AUPO annual meeting in San Diego.

Congratulations Dr. Desai!

Tufts NEEC at the American Glaucoma Society in Austin, TX

NEEC presenting at American Glaucoma Society

In addition to several other glaucoma-focused talks, Sarwat Salim, MD gave a talk on Advocacy as part of the AAO leadership DC Update Panel at AGS.

NEEC team photo
Wayne Tie, MD (fellow 2019), Susan Liang, MD and Astrid Werner MD
NEEC team photo at dinner
Wayne Tie (fellow ’19), Susan Liang, Tripper Sauer (fellow ’18), Emily Wright (resident ’17), Astrid Werner, Maggie Wei (fellow ’22)
Team photo
Emily Wright (resident ’17), Jessica Moon
(resident ’17), and Astrid Werner (resident ’18)
NEEC team photo
Alumni with members of the Tufts-OCB glaucoma faculty: Lisa McHamm, Brendan Lawson (current fellow), Wayne Tie (fellow ’19), Ambika Hogue, Husam Ansari, Susan Liang, Tripper Sauer (fellow ’18 and current OCB faculty), Claudia Richter, James Hung, Maggie Wei (fellow ’22), and Astrid Werner (resident ’18 and current NEEC faculty)

NEEC Neuro-ophthalmology at NEOS and NANOS

NEEC Neuro-Ophthalmology at NEOS and NANOS Meetings

NEOS Meeting

On March 3, 2023, Dr. Laurel Vuong organized and moderated the Neuro-ophthalmology Session at the New England Ophthalmology Society quarterly meeting. The theme was “Neuro-ophthalmology in the 21st Century: Novel Techniques and New Insights.” The Guest of Honor was Dr. Vuong’s fellowship mentor, Dr. Valerie Biousse from Emory. Local speakers included Tufts NEEC’s very own, Dr. Thomas Hedges, as well as neuro-ophthalmologists from Brigham and Women’s, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston Medical Center, Yale, and Dartmouth-Hitchcock.

NANOS Meeting

The neuro-ophthalmology team, along with soon-to-be neuro-ophthalmologist Erin Lanzo, was then off to the 49th meeting of the North American Neuro-ophthalmology Society in Orlando, FL to present an e poster entitled “Asymmetric papilledema with Surprising Outcomes.” We had a mini reunion with Dr. Kevin Sitko (resident 2014, ophthalmology program director University of New Mexico), Dr. Sarah Thornton (resident 2021), and Dr. Mitch Strominger (Former Tufts NEEC Pediatric ophthalmology/Pediatric Neuro-ophthalmology Service Director).

NEEC neuro-ophthalmology team at NANOS
Dr. Kevin Sitko (resident 2014, ophthalmology program director University of New Mexico), Laurel Vuong, Thomas Hedges, and Josi Martin MD
NEEC neuro-ophthalmology team at NANOS
Dr. Kevin Sitko MD, Laurel Vuong MD, and Erin Lanzo MD (R’ 23)

Donate to the Ophthalmology Teaching Fund!

The Ophthalmology training program at NEEC is exceptional because we support our residents every step of the way. We embrace the challenge of improving education, but many initiatives require funding. Your help is vital in maintaining and elevating the strong reputation of NEEC Alumni. Please click here to support out trainees by donating to our Ophthalmology Teaching Fund.

From the Archives at NEEC

Abe Polin, MD

Abe Polin, MD

The photograph of this ophthalmologist teaching students has appeared in various books on the history of Tufts Medical Center. He was Abraham Pollen, M.D., a graduate of Tufts Medical School. He was born and raised in Chelsea, the son of an egg merchant, and, despite orthopedic and pulmonary issues from childhood tuberculosis, a well-known ophthalmologist in Boston. He was beloved by his patients and highly respected by colleagues. There are many stories about Abe, but his partner at Boston Eye Physicians and Surgeons, George Garcia, recalls when Abe was called to the home of a woman to see her son who could not get up from bed and had ophthalmoplegia. Abe was able to obtain physostigmine from a local pharmacy and gave it to the patient who immediately got up and could see normally. Abe was heroically paraded down the streets of Chelsea by a group of bystanders. Abe was “Friday Chief” of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear General Eye Service for many years and taught ocular motility at the Lancaster and Harvard Basic Science Courses. In this photograph he may have been teaching students in the “Tufts Room” at MEEI.

by Thomas Hedges MD

Thank you to our contributing editors:
Thomas Hedges, MD – From the Archives at NEEC
Andre Witkin, MD – Research Spotlight
Sylvia Yoo, MD – Departmental Spotlight
Melina Morkin, MD – Special Features
Vicki Chen, MD – Ophthalmology Teaching Fund Column
Astrid Werner, MD – Editor
Laurel Vuong, MD – Editor

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