January 2022

Dear Alumni, Faculty, and Friends,

We hope you enjoy this issue of the NEEC newsletter! In this issue, we introduce some new members of the team at NEEC, catch up with two of our alumnae, and provide an update about clinical research at NEEC.

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 NEECalumni@tuftsmedicalcenter.org.

Sincerely,

Astrid Werner, MD, Laurel Vuong, MD and Vicki Chen, MD

Note from the Chairman: Pedram Hamrah, MD

Pedram Hamrah

As we put 2021 in the rearview and look ahead to the new year and the first major snowfall in New England, a new chapter is also beginning at the New England Eye Center. First and foremost, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Jay S. Duker, who recently stepped down, for his 21 years of commitment and service as the Director of the Eye Center and the Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and who led the Eye Center with his exemplary and tireless leadership. With his leadership the New England Eye Center achieved tremendous growth, stability and prosperity over the past decades. I am honored and privileged to have the opportunity to serve and give back as the Interim Chair of the Department and the Interim Director of the Eye Center, to build upon the tremendous progress he and all faculty and staff have accomplished during his tenure, until a permanent chair has been selected during the coming year. I am looking forward to working with everyone, all in an effort to set a clear and compelling path for the next chapter in the life of the Eye Center and continued growth of our family.

The New Year has also brought forth other changes to the New England Eye Center. We are welcoming Dr. Pablo Argüeso, who joined us from Harvard Medical School, as the new Director of Research for the Ophthalmology Department along with the role of Director of Tufts Center for Vision Research (TCVR). I would like to thank Dr. Noorjahan Panjwani, who has recently stepped down in that role, for having led the tremendous growth in research in the department. We are fortunate that both Drs. Duker and Panjwani will remain on faculty and we look forward to continuing working with them. We have just matched superb candidates for our fellowship positions and having interviewed some of the brightest future ophthalmologists, are looking forward to the residency match.

-Pedram Hamrah, MD
Interim Chairman of Ophthalmology at the Tufts Medical Center

Pablo Argüeso PhD. named Director of Ophthalmology Research and the Tufts Center for Vision Research

 Pablo Argueso

We are excited to announce that Dr. Pablo Argüeso has joined us as Director of Research for the Ophthalmology Department along with the role of Director of Tufts Center for Vision Research (TCVR). We know he will make a significant impact and contribution to our efforts to strengthen our Vision Research program of Ophthalmology department as well as of various basic science departments across Tufts Campuses.

Dr. Argüeso received his PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Valladolid, Spain and has most recently been furthering his research in the fields of glycobiology and ophthalmology at the Schepens Eye Research Institute of Mass. Eye and Ear. Dr. Argüeso specializes in corneal diseases and he has achieved international recognition for his work studying ocular surface biology. He is extensively published and has a strong, consistent record of NIH funding of his research.

In his role here as the Director of the TCVR Dr. Argüeso’s focus will be on the growth and stewardship of the TCVR while continuing to maintain his own research program. As Director, he will be responsible for enhancing the reputation and total awarded funding of Tufts Vision Research Program, engaging with funding agencies to create goodwill for the Tufts Vision Research Program and collaborating with Tufts scientists beyond the Vision Research Program.

Please join us in welcoming Dr. Argüeso to Tufts Medical Center, Tufts University School of Medicine and the Department of Ophthalmology!

Update on Clinical Research at NEEC

Andre Witkin, MD and Stephanie Cox, OD named co-directors of clinical research at Tufts NEEC

Andre J. Witkin, MD
Stephanie Cox, OD
Stephanie M. Cox, OD

With the coming of a new year also comes some promising developments in our research team at Tufts! The team is co-directed by Andre J. Witkin, MD and Stephanie M. Cox, OD, both of whom have many years of experience in clinical research. Nancy Gee continues to be our tireless director of clinical research operations, and our team also now includes four research coordinators: Anastasiya Chashchykhina, Sara Galinko, Karaghan Curran, and Kendall Lavin-Parsons. We are excited to continue to offer patients the opportunity to participate in groundbreaking clinical research for a variety of ocular conditions. Below is a summary of currently enrolling and future trials at Tufts (we also have a number of other ongoing studies closed to enrollment which are not listed here):

Retina

Enrolling:

  • EYE-DMI: An imaging study to evaluate eyes with diabetic macular ischemia and proliferative diabetic retinopathy

Future Studies:

  • BELVEDERE: An open-label single arm study to determine the efficacy and safety of the Port Delivery System (PDS) with ranibizumab to treat patients with neovascular AMD who were previously treated with an intravitreal agent other than ranibizumab
  • TELESCOPE: This study aims to evaluate subjects with geographic atrophy (GA) secondary to dry AMD by sequencing selected genes associated with AMD
  • HORIZON/EXPLORE: A phase II randomized trial which will evaluate the safety and efficacy of two doses of GT005 (a recombinant non-replicating adeno-associated viral vector) administered as a single subretinal injection in subjects with GA

Cornea

Enrolling:

  • CLARIS: Randomized clinical trial to evaluate the efficacy and safety of CSB-001 (hepatocyte derived nerve human growth factor) in healing corneal defects for Stage 2 and Stage 3 Neurotrophic Keratitis patients
  • EMMECELL: To assess the safety and tolerability of EO2002 (magnetic human corneal endothelial cells) anterior chamber injection [with or without endothelial brushing and/or Descemet’s stripping] in the treatment of corneal edema secondary to corneal endothelial dysfunction (Fuch’s dystrophy, pseudophakic bullous keratopathy)
  • ZEDS: This randomized trial aims to evaluate if prolonged oral antiviral treatment with acyclovir reduces complications of Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus when compared to placebo.
  • ICON: This study aims to identify a simple clinic-based test to differentiate between dry eye disease and eyes with neuropathic corneal pain
  • DECIDED: This randomized clinical trial aims to assess the effectiveness of a steroid containing punctal plug (Dextenza) in the treatment of inflammatory dry eye disease.
  • PreDICT: This study aims to evaluate if we can predict using one or more in office tests which dry eye patients will have effective symptom relief using artificial tears and which patients need more aggressive treatment.

Future Studies:

  • NGF0121: This randomized trial aims to evaluate the efficacy of Oxervate (human nerve growth factor) in patients with Sjogren’s induced severe dry eye disease when compared to placebo
  • NGF0221: This randomized trial aims to evaluate the efficacy of Oxervate (human nerve growth factor) in patients with Sjogren’s-induced severe dry disease and currently using cyclosporine A treatment, when compared to placebo
  • SAHARA: This randomized trial aims to evaluate the safety and efficacy of two dose concentrations of SAF312 in the treatment of post-operative induced chronic corneal pain (following PRK, LASIK, or cataract surgery)
  • ST266-PED-202: This randomized trial aims to evaluate the efficacy and safety of ST266 (amnion-derived cytokine cellular solution) in the treatment of persistent, non-healing corneal epithelium defects
  • EXPEDE: This randomized trial aims to evaluate the safety and efficacy of Nexagon ointment (applied under a bandage contact lens) at varying concentrations for the treatment of persistent corneal epithelial defects that are result of chemical or thermal injury to the eye.

Pediatrics

Future Study:

  • DOLPHIN: This randomized trial aims to evaluate the safety and efficacy of OT-101 (Atropine Sulfate 0.01%) in treating the progression of myopia in pediatric subjects when compared to control

Glaucoma

Enrolling:

  • GOS: This observational study will assess the utility of the Glaucoma Outcomes Survey (GOS) to measure the quality of life for patients with Glaucoma after undergoing combined cataract surgery with minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS).

NEEC Alumnae launch OphthoGenie – an Oral Boards Preparatory Website:

Kendra Klein, MD and Nora Muakkassa, MD struggled to find up-to-date material when preparing for their Oral Board Examination.

In response, Kendra and Nora recently launched OphthoGenie™, a comprehensive, web-based study platform for the Ophthalmology Oral Boards Exam. OphthoGenie utilizes a digital platform to provide the user with the most realistic Oral Boards experience. OphthoGenie has nearly 200 clinical case scenarios and offers real-time performance statistics for focused study.

Some stats in our first year since launching OphthoGenie:

  • Helped 100 Ophthalmologists pass the ABO Oral Boards
  • Users created 2400+ Practice Test (1700 Beginner • 755 advanced)
  • 513 Test Simulations with our Bi-directional Study Buddy feature were generated
  • Grown to 177 cases across all 6 topic areas, scoring segmented into Data Acquisition, Diagnosis, and Case Management

Kendra and Nora give a special thanks to the NEEC faculty and alumni who have contributed to the website through clinical photographs or expert review.

Looking to purchase OphthoGenie for yourself or trainees? Please contact Kendra (kendra@ophthogenie.com) or Nora (nora@ophthogenie.com) for NEEC alumni rates. Likewise, if you have an interesting case or want to be part of our expert review panel, please reach out!

Read more about what Kendra and Nora have been up to since graduation:

After graduating from NEEC residency in 2016 and NEEC medical retina fellowship in 2017, Kendra Klein, MD joined Associated Retina Consultants in Phoenix, Arizona. Kendra returned to New England in the fall of 2020 with her husband Mark and two young daughters Shira (age two) and Zahara (10 months). She has joined the retina department at the Lahey Clinic where she is seeing medical retina patients and teaching fellows and residents. She is enjoying being back in Boston and catching up with old friends and mentors.

Nora completed her residency followed by her medical retina fellowship at NEEC in 2016 and joined the Tufts faculty for two years before moving to Denver. She now works in a multi-specialty private practice in Denver where she sees mostly medical retina patients and also continues to perform cataract surgery. She can’t get enough of the Colorado mountains and sunshine though she misses all of her colleagues in Boston.

NEEC Welcomes two new members to the Optometry Department:

Jessica Capri, OD

Dr. Capri received her Doctor of Optometry at the Illinois College of Optometry, and completed her residency in the VA Connecticut Healthcare System. In addition to providing primary eye care, Dr. Capri has extensive training in vision rehabilitation and brain injury. You can read Dr. Capri’s full bio here.

Amanda Vessels, OD

Dr. Vessels received her Doctor of Optometry from the New England College of Optometry, followed by a residency in the VA Boston Healthcare System. She specializes in routine eye care and contact lenses, and provides vision correction consultation and post operative care in the refractive surgery department. You can read Dr. Vessels full bio here.

Dr. Caroline Baumal and Dr. Melina Morkin Assume New Leadership Positions at NEEC

Boston Ophthalmologist Caroline Baumal, M.D.

In November, Dr. Caroline Baumal assumed the role of co-director of the Retina Service at NEEC. Dr. Baumal is a Professor of Ophthalmology and Director of Retinopathy of Prematurity Service and specializes in diseases and surgery of the retina and vitreous. Dr. Baumal completed Medical School and Ophthalmology Residency at the University of Toronto after undergraduate studies at McGill University. She completed two fellowships: one at New England Eye Center in Boston studying Medical Retina and Lasers and the other in Vitreoretinal Diseases at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia. Dr. Baumal has authored over 100 peer-reviewed papers and 25 book chapters on retinal diseases and has been involved in retina research and clinical trials evaluating the pathogenesis and novel drug treatment of retinal diseases. She has been extensively speaking at national and international meetings and has recently received the Senior Achievement Award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Boston Ophthalmologist Melina Morkin, M.D.

In December, Dr. Melina Morkin assumed the role of Associate Director of the Cornea, External Diseases & Anterior Segment Fellowship. Dr. Melina Morkin joined the Cornea and Refractive Services at the New England Eye Center, Tufts Medical Center in 2019. She has previously completed her Ophthalmology Residency at Tufts Medical Center, followed by a Cornea, External Disease, Cataract and Refractive Surgery Fellowship at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami. She is originally from Argentina, where she graduated at the top of her medical school class at Favaloro University Faculty of Medical Sciences in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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

Thank you to Jay Duker, MD for 21 years of service as Chairman of Tufts NEEC. Here’s a look back at Jay over the years….

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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