February 2024

Dear Alumni, Faculty, and Friends,

We hope you enjoy this issue of the NEEC newsletter! In this issue, we share NEEC leadership updates, learn about an exciting ocular melanoma clinical trial at NEEC, and see what our faculty have been up to at the 2023 AAO meeting and beyond.

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, M.D.

Greetings from the New England Eye Center.

Image of Doctor Reza Vagefi

Dear Alumni, Faculty, and Friends,

It is amazing how quickly time flies- we are more than halfway through the academic year! For those of you who were able to make the AAO gathering in San Francisco, it was great to see you, as it was to meet new faces. We have a wonderful community, and it was fantastic to reboot the annual event.

There is much underway at NEEC. The residency program has been busy with interviews and completed a successful match- bringing together a group from all over the United States including Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts (yes- one from Tufts!), and New Mexico. Credit is due to the faculty who evaluated over 700 applications! We thank Drs. Kamden Kopani and Laurel Vuong for their leadership as well as Drs. Catherine Choi, Kendra Klein-Mascia and Marisa Tieger for contributing to the effort.

We are also excited to announce the creation of a new research day that is reserved for science from our training programs including the residency, fellowships, and basic sciences. The Ophthalmology Research Scholars Day will happen on May 24, 2024 at NEEC Biewend 10 auditorium. Mark your calendars! We hope to have a good showing of support and that you may join us as their research projects are showcased.

On the leadership front, there are some outstanding additions to share with the group. The new Vice Chairs (Drs. Hamrah, M. Liang, Werner, and Witkin) are featured in this newsletter. We would also like to bring attention to the following individuals. Dr. Dru Krishnan has stepped into the role of Glaucoma Division Chief in addition to serving as the Glaucoma Fellowship Director. Dr. Shilpa Desai is the new Medical Director at our Brighton location. Lastly, Dr. Marisa Tieger will take over as Director of Medical Student Education. We are grateful to these physicians for taking on these responsibilities.

In closing, the department is hard at work with the Development Office both at Tufts Medical Center and Tufts University School of Medicine. Through these efforts, we hope to better support patient care, our faculty, teaching programs, and research efforts. The impact of giving can be transformational for a department, and it is our goal to actively engage with those who are grateful for their NEEC experience.

With appreciation,

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

NEEC Faculty among “Boston’s Top Doctors” in Ophthalmology

14 NEEC Faculty selected to Castle Connolley’s “Boston’s Top Doctors” List for 2024

  • Caroline Baumal
  • Alison Callahan
  • Shilpa Desai
  • Jay Duker
  • Thomas Hedges
  • Katrinka Heher
  • Dru Krishnan
  • Michelle Liang
  • Melina Morkin
  • Yosbelkys Martin-Paez
  • Michael Raizman
  • Christopher Robinson
  • Andre Witkin
  • Helen Wu

You can see the complete list of “Top Docs” here.

Boston Magazine Cover - 3 doctors in photo

Ophthalmology Residency Match Results

Thank you to our faculty and residents who made this year’s residency match such a success. We matched four excellent candidates and we are excited to have them join the team this July!

Alise Aucoin

Alise Aucoin: Louisiana State University

Arjun Sharma

Arjun Sharma: Tufts University

Kevin Card

Kevin Card: University of Hawaii

Pachely Medivil Aguayo

Pachely Medivil Aguayo: University of New Mexico

NEEC Faculty Members Appointed to Vice Chair Positions in Research and Academic Programs, Clinical Services, Surgical Services and Quality.

NEEC now has several new Vice Chair positions to oversee four areas critical to our mission to provide excellent care to our patients.

Pedram Hamrah, MD
Astrid Werner photo

Pedram Hamrah, MD has been appointed to the Vice Chair of Research and Academic Programs at the NEEC. In this role, Dr. Hamrah oversees all Clinical and Basic Science research activities NEEC and will work in close collaboration with the Director of the Tufts Center for Vision Research.

Andre Witkin, MD

Andre Witkin, MD has been appointed to the Vice Chair of Surgical Services. In this role, Dr. Witkin oversees all aspects of surgical care provided at NEEC and affiliated satellites to further our mission of excellence in surgical care of patients.

Astrid Werner, MD has been appointed to Vice Chair of Clinical Services. In this role, Dr. Werner oversees all aspects of clinical care at NEEC and affiliated satellites to further our mission for excellence in patient care.

Michelle Liang, MD

Michelle Liang, MD has been appointed to the Vice Chair of Quality. In this role, Dr. Liang oversees the development, implementation, and evaluation of the Patient Safety (PS) and Quality Improvement (QI) program at the New England Eye Center, affiliated satellites, and where Ophthalmology interfaces with the emergency/urgent care, inpatient, and surgical care arenas.

Sylvia Yoo, MD testifies in support of the “Definition of Surgery Bill”

Sylvia Yoo, MD

Dr. Sylvia Yoo testifies in support of Bill H.1177 to protect patients’ eyesight in Massachussetts.

On November 7th, Dr. Sylvia Yoo (Tufts Pediatric Ophthalmology) gave oral testimony to Massachusetts’s Health Care Financing Committee in support of the Definition of Surgery Bill, which aims to protect patients by limiting the practice of surgical and laser procedures trained MD and DO Ophthalmic surgeons. You can read the text of the bill here, and see a video of Dr. Yoo’s testimony here.

Shelly Klein, C.O. wins Lancaster Award at the 2023 AAO/AACO Meeting

Shelly Klein, CO
Shelly Klein, CO, receiving reward

Shelly Klein, CO, member of the NEEC Pediatric Ophthalmology Department, and Program Director for the Tufts Orthoptics Fellowship Program was awarded the Lancaster Award at this year’s AAO/AACO meeting. The Lancaster award, named for the “Father of Orthoptics” Dr. Walter B Lancaster, is considered the highest honor bestowed by the American Association of Certified Orthoptists. Congratulations Shelly!

You can read more about the fascinating history of the Dr. Walter B. Lancaster here.

NEEC will participate in Aura Bioscience’s Ocular Melanoma Clinical Trial

Shilpa Desai, MD

Shilpa Desai, MD

Shilpa Desai, MD will be the Primary Investigator at NEEC for Aura Bioscience’s Ocular Melanoma therapy, AU-011.

AU-011 is a light activated targeted therapy which uses viral nanoparticular conjugates to treat small to medium sized choroidal melanoma. This exciting clinical trial will be evaluating this first-in-class treatment for ocular melanoma. Please contact NEEC if you are interested in clinical trial participation or have any
questions: [email protected].

For more information, please visit Aura Biosciences Website, here: https://aurabiosciences.com/pipeline- programs/choroidal-melanoma/

Ocular Melanoma therapy diagram

Bel-sar is injected into the eye where it selectively binds to the cell membrane of choroidal melanoma cells. Once bel-sar is bound to the tumor cell membrane it delivers a potent photosensitizing drug that is then activated with infrared light. As a result of bel-sar’s targeted binding to the tumor cell, upon light activation, bel-sar triggers the generation of singlet oxygen that causes a physical disruption of the cell membrane leading to acute cellular necrosis. This process also activates the patient’s innate and adaptive immune system to further identify and destroy cancer cells with the potential to prevent metastatic disease.

Seven NEEC Physicians among the top 100,000 scientists by citation metrics

Pablo Argüeso, Caroline Baumal, Jay Duker, Elizabeth Fini, Pedram Hamrah, Noorjahan Panjwani, and Elias Reichel were listed among the top 100,000 most published scientists world- wide across all fields of science.

You can read the full article here.

A standardized citation author database annotated for scientific field image

Department of Ophthalmology Faculty Retreat

On October 20, 2023, the Department of Ophthalmology held a faculty retreat on the School of Medicine campus. The day was filled with interactive sessions where faculty broke out in small groups. We gave thought to our mission statement, our local/national/international presence, our purpose as a center of learning, how we support our people – among other topics. We were joined by Jack Silversin DMD, DrPH with Amicus who provided us feedback and closed out the day with a keynote lecture. From these activities, we are working to explore and implement the ideas generated to create positive change at the New England Eye Center.

NEEC 2024 Ophthalmology retreat group photo
NEEC 2024 Ophthalmology retreat small group photo
NEEC 2024 Ophthalmology retreat small group photo

Photo caption: NEEC participated in a faculty retreat this past fall (top). A small group discusses our reputation as it pertains to the tripartite mission (bottom left). Dr. Kopani shares the ideas their small group spawned regarding developing a center of excellence (bottom right).

NEEC at AAO in San Francisco

NEEC faculty and trainees were quite busy at this year’s AAO, leading a total of 26 sessions at the meeting. If you missed the sessions and would like to see them, many them are available on-line through March at the AAO virtual meeting site. You can see a complete list of the NEEC sessions here.

Dr. Reza Vagefi accepting a reward

Dr. Reza Vagefi was honored with an award recognizing his contribution to education in the ASOPRS community.

Daniel Azzam MD at a podium presenting
Dr. Alison Callahan moderating a presentation

Third year resident Daniel Azzam MD (pictured top) presenting a surgical approach for carotid cavernous fistula (Mentor Dr. Tory North) at the ASOPRS Eye Openers Rapid Fire session moderated by Dr. Alison Callahan (pictured below).

Yi Ling Dai, MD presenting her work

Oculoplastic and Neuro- Ophthalmology fellow Yi Ling Dai, MD presenting her work on a series of periorbital necrotizing fasciitis at ASOPRS subspecialty day at AAO.

Dr. Reza Vagefi presenting at AAO

Dr. Reza Vagefi gave a talk on skull based surgery for complex orbital tumors at the AAO Oculoplastics Subspecialty Day

Group photo of Mitesh Kapadia, MD, Resident Daniel Azzam MD, Victoria North MD, and Yi Ling Dai MD

Mitesh Kapadia MD (NEEC Oculoplastics), Resident Daniel Azzam MD, Victoria North MD (NEEC Oculoplastics), and Yi Ling Dai MD (Oculoplastics- NeuroOphthalmology fellow) enjoy the ASOPRs reception at AAO.

Sylvia Yoo accepting LDP graduation plaque

Sylvia Yoo MD graduated from the AAO leadership development program (LDP) – pictured with Chris Albanis, LDP Director and Graduate, and Dan Briceland, outgoing President of AAO and LDP graduate.

Caroline Baumal, MD, pictured with residents

Caroline Baumal, MD pictured with glaucoma gals Aubrey Tirpack MD (R ’18), Ali Lauter MD (R ’19), and Emily Wright MD
(R ’17).

Alumni Reception photo

Omar AbuQamar MD, Jarod Santoro MD (R’ 22), Reza Vagefi MD, Angell Shi MD, William Binotti MD enjoy the NEEC alumni reception at AAO.

NEEC alumni image

Caroline Baumal MD pictured with Rubin Kim, MD (NEEC retina fellowship alumnus), Paul Chang MD, MSc, MBA and Michael Ip MD (NEEC Retina fellowship alumnus)

Resident Will Binotti photographed with Dr. Sarkis Soukiasian

Third year resident Will Binotti, MD pictured with with Dr. Sarkis Soukiasian. The pair presented the poster: Is Molecular Testing of the Aqueous Humor Adequate for CMV Endotheliitis Screening Prior to Endothelial Graft Surgery – Case Report.

Will also gave a talk with Dr. Pedram Hamrah: Conjunctival Optical Coherence Tomography Angiography is Associated with Ocular Redness and Corneal Dendritic Cells in Ocular Surface Disease.

Mass Lions Eye Research Fund Board of Directors Visit

On December 4, 2023, the New England Eye Center hosted the MLERF Board of Directors. The evening included a tour of our laboratory facilities and a reception that followed. Dean Helen Boucher joined us for the event to express appreciation for their support of the Ophthalmology Department. Dr. Pablo Argüeso provided an overview of our basic science research effort. The evening concluded with presentations by Dr. Pedram Hamrah on neuropathic corneal pain and Dr. Rafael Martinez-Carrasco on ocular glycobiology- both MLERF supported projects.

MLERF board of directors

Photo caption: Dr. Pablo Argüeso presents the MLERF Board of Directors an overview of their funding support of the Tufts Center for Vision Research.

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.

Thank you to our contributing editors:

  • Thomas Hedges, MD – From the Archives at NEEC
  • Andre Witkin, MD – Research Spotlight
  • Sylvia Yoo, MD – Departmental Spotlight
  • Astrid Werner, MD – Editor
  • Laurel Vuong, MD – Editor
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