Dear Alumni, Faculty, and Friends,
We hope you enjoy this issue of the NEEC newsletter! In this issue, we celebrate some major accomplishments of our faculty members and residents, welcome two new physicians to NEEC faculty, meet our new residents and fellows, and catch up with NEEC residents, faculty and alumni out and about in Boston.
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,
The academic year is upon us, and we have kicked it off with our Grand Rounds series! The seminar has expanded to include additional lectures from our basic science colleagues as well as an optometry contribution. If you are local, please choose to attend in person at the Biewend Auditorium (10th floor) and help facilitate a friendly conversation of the presented topics. In addition, we are featuring a number of other lecture series for the year including our Frontiers in Vision, Research Faculty Seminar, and Research in Progress.
On the research front, we have plenty of exciting work that is being done. Among our basic scientists, we have been able to garner four new ‘R’ grants in the way of corneal and ROP studies and are awaiting the outcomes of several other grant applications. There are a number of new clinical trials underway investigating different drugs in the treatment of persistent epithelial defects, Sjogren’s Syndrome, neuropathic corneal pain, and early-stage choroidal melanoma.
With our training programs, we are also off to the races and would like to welcome the new residents that have started whether as interns (PGY1) or more formally on the service as second years (PGY2). Joining them are a new group of fellows in Cornea, Glaucoma, Neuro-ophthalmology, and Retina. There are also medical students with us from both local and external programs, performing sub-I’s in Ophthalmology. In addition, the application season is here, and our residency and fellowship program directors are busy reviewing candidates and extending interviews.
For my educational growth at NEEC, I have had the opportunity to visit all our clinics including those in Brighton, Brookline, Cambridge, Framingham, and Wellesley. It has been wonderful to meet with clinicians and staff in action, as we work hard to provide access and excellence in patient care. We are grateful for everyone’s effort in making NEEC a special place.
As we get ready for our national fall meeting, I look forward to meeting more of you at our AAO gathering in San Francisco. Please mark your calendars for November 4th from 6 to 8 PM at One Market Restaurant (1 Market St). I hope to see you there!
M. Reza Vagefi, MD
Professor and Chair, Department of Ophthalmology
Director, New England Eye Center
Sarwat Salim Elected to the Board of Regents of the American College of Surgeons (ACS)
Dr. Salim is the first woman surgeon from the state of Massachusetts and first woman ophthalmologist to be elected as an ACS Regent.
Sarwat Salim, MD, FACS, Professor of Ophthalmology and Director of Glaucoma Service has been elected to the Board of Regents of the American College of Surgeons (ACS). Dr. Salim is the first woman surgeon from the state of Massachusetts and the first woman ophthalmologist to be elected as an ACS Regent in the 110-year history of the organization. Over the years, she has served in many leadership roles within the ACS, including service on the Board of Governors, Advisory Council of Ophthalmic Surgery, Health Policy and Advocacy Committee, Nominating Committee, Program Committee, Mentorship Committee, Faculty Development Committee, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, among others. She also represented the ACS on the American Academy of Ophthalmology Council for a decade before serving as its Chair and a member of the Academy Board of Trustees. Dr. Salim is extremely grateful for this extraordinary privilege and is looking forward to using this important platform to enhance the standards of surgical care and advocate on behalf of our patients, colleagues, and profession.
Welcome to Dr. Goplan Gnanaguru!
Dr. Gnanaguru joins the Tufts Vision Research Center as a new Principal Investigator
Dr. Gopalan Gnanaguru earned his bachelor’s degree in microbiology (CN College, University of Madras, India), master’s degree in biotechnology (PR College, Bharathidasan University, India), and Ph.D. in cellular and molecular Biology (SUNY-School of Graduate Studies, Health Science Center at Brooklyn). Gnanaguru completed his postdoctoral fellowship at Schepens Eye Research Institute, Harvard Medical School, and then became an Investigator/Instructor at Mass Eye and Ear, Harvard Medical School.
Broadly, Gnanaguru’s research interests include glial, microglial, and retinal vascular biology. Glial and microglial cells play a key role in maintaining the homeostasis of neural tissues such as the retina. His research focuses on defining the molecular mediators that facilitate glial-microglial crosstalk during neural retinal development and disease. More specifically, his research is investigating how components of innate immunity modulate glial and microglial crosstalk during retinal development and in various retinal degenerative pathologies.
Welcome to Dr. Marisa Tieger!
Dr. Tieger joins the NEEC Retina Division as an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology. She is known to many in the department, having completed medical school training at Tufts University School of Medicine in 2016. She went on to pursue residency training and vitreoretinal fellowship at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. She also served as Chief Resident in between those periods of training. Dr. Tieger has research interests in ocular trauma and central serous chorioretinopathy, among other areas. We extend her a warm welcome and are excited to have her join NEEC!
Dr. Tieger will be seeing patients in our Boston and Wellesley offices as well as Newton Wellesley Eye Associates and Massachusetts Eye Associates.
Mass Lions Eye Research Fund Grant Awards
On August 5, 2023, Dr. Pablo Argüeso attended the 71st Annual Mass Lions Eye Research Fund Awards Banquet in Springfield, MA on behalf of the Tufts Medical Center and Tufts Center for Vision Research. Since its inception in 1951, MLERF has provided over $40 million in research grants to research institutions in the state. This year, the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Lions Eye Research Fund, Inc. voted to graciously award the Department of Ophthalmology a grant in the amount of $121,439. This annual grant provides the seed money that allows our researchers to test preliminary hypothesis and gather data that may then be used to apply for grant funding from the National Eye Institute/National Institute of Health or other sources. Their funding has been supportive of research in numerous areas—most recently on ocular surface epitheliopathy by Dr. Betty Fini; use of OCT to characterize the palisades of Vogt in limbal stem cell deficiency by Drs. William Binotti and Pedram Hamrah; targeting galectin-8 to reduce severity of Pseudomonas keratitis by Dr. Panjwani; and the benefits of carbohydrate modification to treat ocular disease by Dr. Pablo Argüeso. We appreciate their generous, ongoing support of our research program.
PGY2 Heba Mahjoub wins best presentation at the 2023 Ocular Trauma Conference in NYC
The American Society of Ophthalmic Trauma held its first in-person annual meeting on Saturday June 3, 2023, in New York City. The ASOT Annual meeting is a forum for discussion of topics related to ophthalmic trauma including open globe repair, dog bites, pediatric trauma involving toys, ocular trauma research and more. Heba’s research won best oral presentation in the “Trauma Research Medley” subcategory. See below for a summary of Heba’s research and presentation
“Most Common Ophthalmic Diagnoses in Eye Emergency Departments: A Multicenter Study”
A total of 64,988 patients with primary ocular diagnoses at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Wills Eye Hospital, and Johns Hopkins Hospital/Wilmer Eye Institute from January 2019 to December 2019 were analyzed. The most common diagnoses across all institutions were conjunctivitides (7.91%), corneal abrasions (5.61%), dry eye (4.49%), posterior vitreous detachments (4.15%), chalazions (3.71%), corneal ulcers (3.01%), subconjunctival hemorrhages (2.96%), corneal foreign bodies (2.94%), retinal detachments (2.51%), and glaucoma (2.12%). These findings suggest that the most commonly treated ophthalmic conditions in high volume EDs tend to be lower acuity diagnoses. To combat ED overcrowding and rising health care costs in the U.S., we suggest diverting eye-related ED visits to a specialized eye ED service or same-day eye clinic appointment in addition to expanding ophthalmic education for patients and primary care clinicians.
Sylvia Yoo, MD and Catherine Choi, MD perform vision screenings at a recent community outreach event in South Boston
NEEC’s Pediatric Ophthalmologists Sylvia Yoo, MD and Catherine Choi, MD performed pediatric vision screenings at a recent community event called “Ollie Palooza” in South Boston on 8/17/23.
Jay Duker, MD named CEO of Eyepoint Pharmaceuticals
The New England Eye Center’s Jay Duker, MD was recently appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of EyePoint Pharmaceuticals.
Dr. Duker previously served as Chief Operating Officer and President of the company. Prior to serving in these roles at EyePoint, Dr. Duker was the Director of the New England Eye Center (NEEC) and Chair of Ophthalmology at Tufts Medical Center and the Tufts University School of Medicine from 2001-2021. He continues his clinical practice at NEEC, treating patients with medical retinal disorders and intraocular tumors.
EyePoint Pharmaceuticals, Inc, is focused on developing therapeutics to improve the lives of patients with serious eye disorders.
You can read more about Dr. Duker’s new role and EyePoint Pharmaceuticals here.
NEEC Faculty, Residents, and Alumni at NEOS
The 793rd NEOS meeting was held on October 6, 2023 in Boston. Our residents, Drs. Daniel Azzam, Julia Ernst, and Julia Watson kicked off the meeting by presenting three excellent cases during Grand Rounds. Dr. Lana Rifkin and Dr. Lianna Valdes then spoke at the morning uveitis session about immunotherapy and uveitis in the elderly, respectively. The afternoon glaucoma session was moderated by Dr. Tom Hsu, former Tufts-New England Eye Center resident and glaucoma fellow. The guest of honor speaker for session was Dr. Cynthia Mattox, our former Glaucoma Director and Vice Chair, who flew out of retirement from Maui to give two thought-provoking talks on how to efficiently manage glaucoma patients in a time of growing demand and post-operative filtration management . Dr. Dru Krishan then closed the session with why glaucoma progressives despite appropriate management.
Welcome to Our New PGY1 Residents!
Alicia Casella, MD
Hometown: Saddle River, NJ
Medical School: University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
Hobbies: Art of any kind including painting, drawing, sculpture and medical illustration!
Virali D. Shah, MD, MBA
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
Medical School: Albany Medical College
Hobbies: hot yoga, running, cooking, listening to podcasts, travelling to new cities
Noha Sherif, MD
Hometown: Durham, NC
Medical School: University of North Carolina
School of Medicine
Hobbies: Cooking, eating, bubble tea ranking, recipe sharing, gardening, traveling, tennis, experiencing different cultures, family time
Ke Zeng, MD
Hometown: South Pasadena, CA
Medical School: Boston University
Hobbies: Baseball, finding Boston’s best biking trails, pickup basketball, and playing with my pet Corgi and bunny
Welcome to our New Fellows!
Abdul Karim El Hage Sleiman, MD
Hometown: Beirut, Lebanon
Residency: University of Tennessee Medical Center
Hobbies: listening and dancing to music, trying new foods and cooking
Maria Lopez Velasquez, MD
Hometown: San Salvador, El Salvador
Residency: BronxCare Health Systems
Hobbies: family time with my husband and three kids, leisure reading
Uma Jasty, MD
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Residency: Medical College of Wisconsin
Hobbies: running and spending time with friends/family
Nayasha Madhan, MD
Hometown: Des Moines, IA
Residency: The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
Hobbies: travel, HIIT workouts, and eating!
David Fell, MD
1st Year Retina Fellow
Hometown: New York, NY
Residency: University of Texas Southwestern Medical School
Hobbies: cooking/grilling, running, hanging out with my dogs
Stephanie Choi, MD
1st Year Retina Fellow
Hometown: Iowa City, Iowa
Residency: New York University
Hobbies: eating ice cream, running marathons, cycling, swimming, hiking, avid fan of Patriots, Celtics, and Iowa Hawkeyes
Kate Hughes, MD
Medical Retina Fellow
Hometown: Highlands Ranch, CO
Residency: Tufts Medical Center, New England Eye Center
Hobbies: Watching and playing sports (particularly soccer and ice hockey), walks with her 8 month old son, reading fiction novels, and eating Chipotle
Hometown: Suzhou, China
Residency: Tufts Medical Center, New England Eye Center
Hobbies: Traveling, seeking out good food, cooking, thrift shopping
NEEC Resident Retreat
Tufts Ophthalmology residents gathered with faculty members Laurel Vuong (Assistant Program Director) and Kendra Klein (NEEC Alum, and current Program Director at Lahey Health) for their annual resident retreat on August 19th at Tree Top Adventures. A great time was had by all, and no one sustained any injuries – ocular or otherwise!
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
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