July 2023

Dear Alumni, Faculty, and Friends, 

We hope you enjoy this issue of the NEEC newsletter! In this issue, we bid farewell to our graduating residents and fellows. Our trainees are always outstanding individuals and doctors, and this year’s class was no exception. Further,  we catch up with some of the “extracurricular activities” of our faculty and residents. We follow NEEC members to  AAO’s midyear forum in Washington, DC, the Atlantic Coast Retina Club meeting, and to El Salvador on a mission trip.  

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].

Sincerely,  Astrid Werner, MD, and Laurel Vuong, MD  

Note from the Chairman: Reza Vagefi, MD 

Dear Alumni, Faculty, and Friends, 

Dr. Vagefi Reza

First and foremost, thank you for the warm welcome. It has been a pleasure meeting so many of you and learning about your professional journey and aspirations for our department. It is an exciting time at NEEC! We have a passionate group of physicians who are dedicated to excellence in patient care and education. The enthusiasm that has been shared is wonderful. This time of the year is one of celebration as we acknowledge the accomplishments of our soon-to-be graduates. There is much to be impressed of our Residency Class of 2023. These are the amazing residents who endured the brunt of training during the pandemic and all the challenges that this posed. We are proud of them and excited that they will all be pursuing fellowships between Tufts, Wills Eye Hospital, and Weill Cornell/New York Presbyterian Hospital. In addition, we have seven fellows completing their training who are moving on to various opportunities extending from California to Maine. We also have seven individuals completing post-doctoral research programs as well as a graduating orthoptist. Let’s be sure to congratulate all of them on their much-deserved achievement! With their departure, we welcome a new group of learners. It should be acknowledged that it is because of our NEEC  community of educators that we are able to provide an exceptional experience in the training of tomorrow’s ophthalmologists. A special thanks is deserved to our Residency Program Director, Kam Kopani, MD, and Associate  Director, Laurel Vuong, MD, for their dedication to our residency program, as well as to all of our Fellowship  Directors: Caroline Baumal, Dru Krishnan, Michael Raizman, Melina Morkin, and Andre Witkin and their OCB counterparts, Ambika Houget, and Chirag Shah. 

Wishing you all a happy and safe summer, 
M. Reza Vagefi, MD 

Professor and Chair, Department of Ophthalmology 
Director, New England Eye Center
Tufts Medicine

On a sunny first day of June in Boston, Dr. Vagefi held his first “Chief’s Rounds” (a tradition started by former Chairman Jay Duker MD) with our residents and Program Director Kamden Kopani MD and Assistant Program  Direction Laurel Vuong MD.

NEEC Celebrates “World Orthoptist Day”

June 5th, 2023 was
“World Orthoptist Day”
sponsored by the
International Orthoptic Association.

NEEC Orthoptists Shelley Klein and Veronica Ton (pictured here with Orthoptics Student Peyton Hundley) created a humorous image highlighting the challenges of treating Amblyopia as part of the IOA’s effort to raise awareness of the field of Orthoptics worldwide.

NEEC at the Atlantic Coast Retina Club 2023

Andre Witkin, MD
Andre Witkin MD was recently appointed co director of the Tufts Retina service.

Andre Witkin, MD, co-director of the Tufts Retina Service, served as a course director at this year’s meeting held at the Mass Eye and Ear Infirmary and the Seaport Hotel. The meeting featured presentations and panel discussions on topics including advances in vitreoretinal surgery, innovation in retinal vascular disease, and the future of treatments for age-related macular degeneration.

Tufts PGY3 resident Omar Abu-Qamar, MD, MSc was recognized as giving one of the top 10 presentations by a trainee during the meeting for his case of KIFF11 mutation-associated chorioretinopathy.

Left: Omar Abu-Qamar, PGY3 pictured with Carol Shields MD and other top 10 resident presenters.
Left: Omar Abu-Qamar, PGY3, pictured with Carol Shields MD and other top 10 resident presenters.
Above: Andre Witkin MD presenting a case of an orbital hemangioma causing retinal folds.
Above: Andre Witkin MD presenting a case of an orbital hemangioma causing retinal folds.
Omar Abu-Qamar, PGY3 presenting a case of KIFF11 mutation-associated
Omar Abu-Qamar, PGY3, presenting a case of KIFF11 mutation-associated

NEEC at the Mid-Year Forum in Washington, DC

Sylvia Yoo, MD (Tufts Pediatric Ophthalmology), Sarwat Salim MD (Tufts Glaucoma), and PGY3 Residents Allison Resnik, MD and Angell Shi, MD represented Massachusetts at this year’s AAO mid-year Forum in Washington DC.

Here’s what Angell and Allison had to say about their experience:

“At the Mid-Year Forum, we had the opportunity to participate in Congressional Advocacy Day – a day where we meet with staff members for many of our state congressional leaders to ask for their support on issues that are critically important to our field. This year, we focused on topics such as ensuring safe ophthalmic care for our veterans in the VA system, addressing declining Medicare reimbursements, funding for the NIH and NEI, and reducing prior authorization burdens.

As part of the Advocacy Ambassador Program, we participated in many interactive breakout sessions and engaged in discussions that helped expand our understanding of current challenges and breakthroughs in ophthalmology. The sessions allowed us to connect with peers in other programs as well as leaders in the field, exchange ideas, and share our own personal stories.

Our experiences at the Mid-Year Forum offered a wealth of knowledge into many of the external factors that impact how the care we provide for our patients is given. It deepened our understanding of our field’s challenges and empowered us to continue advocating for positive change throughout our careers.”

Angell Shi (PGY3) and Allison Resnick (PGY3) outside of Senator Elizabeth Warren's office.
Angell Shi (PGY3) and Allison Resnick (PGY3) outside of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s office.
Allison Resnick (PGY3), Sylvia Yoo (Tufts Pediatric Ophthalmology), Sarwat Salim (Tufts Glaucoma), and Angell Shi (PGY3) outside of Senator Ed Markey's office.
Allison Resnick (PGY3), Sylvia Yoo (Tufts Pediatric Ophthalmology), Sarwat Salim (Tufts Glaucoma), and Angell Shi (PGY3) outside of Senator Ed Markey’s office.

Sylvia Yoo MD joins several NEEC Alumni on a Mission trip to Santa Ana, El Salvador
Jan 27-Feb 4 2023

Also in attendance were Tufts residency alumni Jim Umlas MD, O’ine McCabe MD, and Linda Brenner Semela, MD. This represents Dr. Umlas’ 25th consecutive year volunteering on this mission trip!

The Eye Clinic and OR suite in Santa Ana, El Salvador
The Eye Clinic and OR suite in Santa Ana, El Salvador.
Sylvia Yoo, MD refracting a patient
Sylvia Yoo, MD, refracting a patient.
Sylvia Yoo, MD performing strabismus surgery.
Sylvia Yoo, MD, performing strabismus surgery.
Before and after pictures of a patient with esotropia who underwent strabismus surgery with Dr. Yoo.
Before and after pictures of a patient with esotropia who underwent strabismus surgery with Dr. Yoo.
Lunch break!
Lunch break!
Sylvia Yoo, MD (Tufts Pediatric Ophthalmology) and Paul Cotran, MD (Glaucoma Specialist at the Lahey Clinic)
Sylvia Yoo, MD (Tufts Pediatric Ophthalmology) and Paul Cotran, MD (Glaucoma Specialist at the Lahey Clinic)

Farewell to Our Graduating Residents 2023

Yi Ling Dai, MD

Yi Ling Dai, MD:
Originally from Suzhou China, Yi Ling came to us by way Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine. Yi Ling will be staying on at NEEC to do a combined Neuro-Ophthalmology and Oculoplastics fellowship. We are lucky to have one more year with Yi Ling!

Teresa Horan, MD

Teresa Horan, MD:
Teresa came to NEEC from the Sidney Kimmel Medical College, and will be returning to Philadelphia after graduation to begin a Glaucoma Fellowship at the Wills Eye Hospital. Teresa writes that she will miss the comradery of her days in the Comprehensive Ophthalmology Clinic – no matter what came in, her co-residents, fellows and attendings all pitched in to help. Her favorite residency memory is the PGY4 trip to AAO in Chicago (check out pictures below).

Kate Hughes, MD

Kate Hughes, MD:
Kate hails from Colorado, and came to NEEC by way of Albany Medical College. She will be staying on at NEEC to complete a Medical Retina Fellowship. Kate writes that her favorite residency memories include hanging out with my amazing residency class in wet lab learning cataract surgery for the first time on pig eyes as PGY-2’s, as well as the Chicago AAO trip as PGY-4’s. I’m going to miss being surrounded by friends and the amazing support system of the NEEC!
We are glad not to have to say goodbye just yet!

Erin Lanzo, MD

Erin Lanzo, MD:
Originally from Baltimore, and a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Erin will be departing Boston for a Neuro ophthalmology fellowship at Weill Cornell/NYP. Erin’s favorite residency memories include the residency rafting trip in Western Mass last summer! and our PGY4 trip to Chicago for AAO where we reunited with ’22 grads Chelsea Gottschalk, Allison Coombs, and Nisha Dhawlikar. See pictures below!

Some Favorite Residency Memories captured in photos…

Residents on the river

Tufts NEEC residents river rafting in summer 2022 in Western MA.

Residents with Katrinka

Senior residents Kate Hughes ’23, Teresa Horan ’23, Yi Ling Dai ’23 and Erin Lanzo ’23 pictured on an architecture boat tour in Chicago at AAO with Katrinka Heher MD (Tufts Oculoplastics faculty)

Residents in Chicago

Senior residents Kate Hughes ’23, Teresa Horan
’23, Yi Ling Dai ’23 and Erin Lanzo ’23 enjoying a
night out at AAO, Chicago.

Residents with Chelsea and Nisha

Senior residents Kate Hughes ’23, Teresa Horan
’23, Yi Ling Dai ’23 and Erin Lanzo ’23 pictured
with Chelsea Gottschalk ’22 and Nisha Dhawlikar

Farewell to Our Graduating Fellows:

Vitreoretinal Disease & Surgery Fellowship

Yingna "Snowy" Liu, MD

Yingna “Snowy” Liu, MD:
Originally from Shanghai, China, Snowy completed her Ophthalmology Residency at UC San Francisco before completing her 2-year surgical retina fellowship at NEEC. Her favorite memories of fellowship include hanging out with the nurses and technicians in the break room on the 10th floor during lunch time. Snowy will be joining Bay Area Retina Associates in California:

Tavish Nanda, MD

Tavish Nanda, MD:
Tavish is originally from Walnut Creek, CA, and completed his Ophthalmology residency at Columbia University prior to joining us for his retina fellowship. Tavish will particularly miss blasting house music in OR 23. He will be joining Retina Consultants in West Hartford, CT:

Cornea, External Diseases & Anterior Segment Fellowship

Nisarg Chhaya, MD

Nisarg Chhaya, MD:
Nisarg hails from Shrewsbury, MA and completed his Ophthalmology residency at Brown University before joining us for Cornea fellowship. One of Nisarg’s favorite memories of fellowship includes a busy OR day with Dr. Abazari in which he completed 11 surgeries as primary surgeon including cataracts, complex PK, a Gunderson flap, IOL repositioning and a large tectonic corneo-scleral graft. What a day! He writes that “I will miss the mentorship, resident interactions and my co-fellows. Boston is also home to many of my childhood friends and family so I will miss seeing them routinely! Finally, I will miss Boston’s beauty and walkability”. Nisarg will be joining Consulting Ophthalmologists PC in Farmington and Glastonbury CT: https://www.consultingeye.com

Jonathan Chao, MD

Jonathan Chao, MD:
Originally from Troy, Michigan, Jonathan completed his Ophthalmology residency at the Beaumont Eye Institute in Michigan before joining us at NEEC for his Cornea fellowship. Jonathan will particularly miss exploring Boston and its many restaurants with his co-fellows. Jonathan will be joining The Medical Eye Center in New Hampshire: https://www.themedicaleyecenter.com/

Glaucoma Fellowship

Brendan M. Lawson, DO

Brendan M. Lawson, DO:
Originally from Bernardsville, NJ, Brendan completed his Ophthalmology residency at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine before heading north to complete his glaucoma fellowship with us. Brendan writes that the two things he will miss most about fellowship are the “excellent comradery among all the ophthalmology fellows and most importantly the clam chowder at Sail Loft”. Brendan will be joining “Eye Physicians & Surgeons, PC” in Milford, CT. https://eyevision2020.net/

Aseef Ahmed, DO

Aseef Ahmed, DO:
Aseef hails from Wakefield, RI, and completed his Ophthalmology residency at George Washington Univerity School of Medicine. Aseef writes that while he will miss having the guiding voice of his glaucoma attendings in his ear in the OR, he has seen so much complex pathology during his fellowship that he feels “ready for launch”. Don’t worry Aseef, if you’re like the rest of us, you will probably be haunted by your attendings voices for years after fellowship. Aseef will be joining Todani Eye Associates located in Plainville, MA: https://www.todanieye.com/

Medical Retina Fellowship

Jason Szelog, MD

Jason Szelog, MD:
Originally from Machester, NH, Jason completed his Ophthalmology residency at the University of Missouri Kansas City before joining us for his Medical Retina fellowship. Of his fellowship year, Jason writes that “I will miss the many new friends and colleagues that helped me throughout this year, my 15-minute walk home through the Public Garden, runs along the esplanade, and the PASCAL Laser.” Jason is joining Eyesight Ophthalmic Services in Portsmouth, NH and Kittery, ME as a Medical Retina Specialist and Comprehensive Ophthalmologist: https://www.eyesightnh.com/locations/portsmouth/

NEEC Graduation 2023

Graduating residents Kate Hughes, Teresa Horan, Yi Ling Dai, and Erin Lanzo pictured with Assistant Program Director, Laurel Vuong, and Program Director Kamden Kopani.

Graduation began with research presentations by our graduating residents and fellows, followed by two excellent talks by our keynote speakers. First, Dr. Jay Duker gave the Moshe Lahav Lecture entitled “Lessons Learned, Lessons Applied”, and then Dr. Jeffrey Goldberg gave this year’s W. Morton Grant visiting professor lecture entitled “Neuroprotection and Vision Restoration.” After the afternoon academic sessions concluded, the department convened for a celebratory dinner featuring the always highly-anticipated resident sketches.

Graduating resident Kate Hughes, MD, won this year’s Resident Research Award.

Dr. Kevin Sitko, NEEC alum and current faculty at the University of New Mexico, won this year’s Resident Teaching Award.

Graduating Cornea Fellows Nisarg Chhaya and Jonathan Chao pictured with Tufts and OCB Cornea Faculty.
Left to Right: Kamden Kopani, Naveen Rao, Melina Morkin, Michael Raizman, Helen Wu and Pedram Hamrah.

Graduating Orthoptics Fellow, Peyton Hundley, pictured here with faculty from the Tufts Pediatric Ophthalmology Department, will be joining the Department of Ophthalmology at the Emory Eye Center.
Left to Right: Veronica Ton, Shelly Klein, Peyton Hundley, Catharine Choi, JP Gorham, and Sylvia Yoo.

Graduating Medical Retina Fellow, Jason Szelog pictured with members of the Tufts Retina Department.
Left to Right: Peter Zhao, Michelle Liang, Jason Szelog, Caroline Baumal, Jay Duker, Andre Witkin.

Graduating Surgical Retina Fellows, Tavish Nanda and Snowy Liu, pictured with members of the Tufts and OCB Retina Department.
Left to Right: Michelle Liang, Jeffrey Heier, Tavish Nanda, Peter Zhao, Snowy Liu, Andre Witkin, Jason Szelog, Caroline Baumal, and Jay Duker

Graduating Glaucoma Fellows, Brendan Lawson and Aseef Ahmed, pictured with members of the Tufts and OCB Glaucoma Department.
Left to Right: Husam Ansari, Ambika Hogue, Dru Krishnan, Brendan Lawson, Sarwat Salim, Susan Liang, and Tom Hsu.

Guest Lecturers Dr. Jeffrey Goldberg and Dr. Jay Duker.
Left to Right: Reza Vagefi, Jeffrey Goldberg, Jay Duker, Laurel Vuong, Tom Hedges, Kamden Kopani and Pedram Hamrah.

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 our trainees.

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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