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AEVR/NAEVR Host Third Annual Emerging Vision Scientists Day Events on Capitol Hill

The class of the Third Annual Emerging Vision Scientists Day (see names in box below) who participated in the AEVR and NAEVR events reflecting the breadth of breakthrough vision research who were nominated by their Departments of Ophthalmology or Schools/Colleges of Optometry from across the nation
The class of the Third Annual Emerging Vision Scientists Day (see names in box below) who participated in the AEVR and NAEVR events reflecting the breadth of breakthrough vision research who were nominated by their Departments of Ophthalmology or Schools/Colleges of Optometry from across the nation
On September 13, AEVR’s Decade of Vision 2010-2020 Initiative hosted its Third Annual Emerging Vision Scientists (EVS) Day on Capitol Hill, which was supported by a grant from Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB). The event, held during Healthy Vision Month and International Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Awareness Week 2017, was also concurrent with the fifth annual Rally for Medical Research Advocacy Day (see box at end of story).


Mohamed Abou Shousha, MD (Bascom Palmer Eye Institute/University
of Miami)
George Asimellis, PhD (Kentucky College of Optometry, University of Pikeville)
Hua Bi, OD, PhD (Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry)
Leah Byrne, PhD (University of Pittsburgh)
Shannon Conley, PhD (University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center)
Asim Farooq, MD (University of Chicago)
Sapna Gangaputra, MD (Vanderbilt Eye Institute)
Elise Harb, OD (UC Berkeley School of Optometry)
Mona Kaleem, MD (University of Maryland)
Heather Livengood, PhD (New York University)
Rose Pasquale, BS (SUNY Upstate)
Rebecca Pfeiffer, PhD (Moran Eye Center/University of Utah)
James Rogala, OD (Kentucky College of Optometry, University of Pikeville)
Hajirah Saeed, MD (Mass Eye & Ear/Harvard)
Patrick Scott, OD, PhD (University of Louisville)
Dean VanNasdale, OD, PhD (Ohio State College of Optometry)
Natalia Vergara, PhD (University of Colorado)
Xiaohua (Elsa) Zhuang, PhD (Illinois College of Optometry)

These 18 young investigators—reflecting the breadth of basic and clinical vision research and who have not yet received their first investigator-initiated (R01) grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)/National Eye Institute (NEI)—attended AEVR’s annual AMD Congressional Briefing, provided on-camera interviews about their research for a summary video, and displayed posters of their research in an evening Congressional Reception. On September 15 and under the auspices of NAEVR, they visited their Congressional delegation offices.

Both the educational and advocacy activities were built around one question—“How will the breakthrough research being conducted by these EVSs prevent, delay, and treat vision disorders--which will grow to an annual United States cost burden of $717 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars by year 2050, as projected by Prevent Blindness in its 2014 study entitled The Future of Vision: Forecasting the Prevalence and Costs of Vision Problems.

Summaries of the 2015 and 2016 events are posted on the Web site.

AEVR EVS Reception
In addition to the poster display, AEVR President Peter McDonnell, MD (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine/Wilmer Eye Institute) hosted a short program at which NEI Deputy Director Belinda Seto, PhD offered a welcome, discussed the NIH/NEI commitment to early-stage investigators, and visited each poster. Dr. Seto was accompanied by Shefa Gordon, PhD, Acting Director of the Office of Program Planning and Analysis, and Maria Zacharias, Director of the Office of Science Communications, Public Liaison, and Education.


Left to right: AEVR Board President Peter McDonnell, MD (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine/Wilmer Eye Institute) listens as NEI Deputy Director Belinda Seto, PhD, speaks during the short program

Cong. Bill Foster, PhD (D-IL), a physicist, speaks with Asim Farooq, MD (University of Chicago) about his research into the visual consequences of graft-versus-host disease in patients undergoing stem cell transplantation

Mona Kaleem, MD (University of Maryland), right, speaks with Vernon Simms from the office of Cong. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) about her research into barriers to accessing vision rehabilitation among visually impaired glaucoma patients. Cong. Cummings is a long-time supporter of public and private efforts to educate about glaucoma.

RPB President Brian Hofland, PhD, with
Dr. Seto

NAEVR Advocacy Day
The 18 EVSs conducted 44 Capitol Hill visits, including four with Members of Congress who wanted to hear directly about their concerns as young investigators. In their meetings, the advocates thanked Congress for the $2 billion NIH increases in each Fiscal Years (FY) 2016 and 2017 and urged enactment of a bicameral, bipartisan budget agreement that raises the non-defense discretionary spending caps to enable the $2 billion FY2018 NIH increase—to a level of $36.1 billion for the NIH and $759 million for the NEI—as approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Although NAEVR’s James Jorkasky and David Epstein and ARVO’s Matt Windsor, PhD accompanied many visits to obtain images, the EVSs did the talking!

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) with Shannon Conley, PhD (University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center)
Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) with Shannon Conley, PhD (University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center)
From left: George Asimellis, PhD (Kentucky College of Optometry, University of Pikeville), Senator Rand Paul, MD (R-KY), an ophthalmologist, James Rogala OD (Kentucky College of Optometry, University of Pikeville), and Patrick Scott, OD, PhD (University of Louisville)
From left: George Asimellis, PhD (Kentucky College of Optometry, University of Pikeville), Senator Rand Paul, MD (R-KY), an ophthalmologist, James Rogala OD (Kentucky College of Optometry, University of Pikeville), and Patrick Scott, OD, PhD (University of Louisville)
Natalia Vergara, PhD	(University of Colorado) with Cong. Mike Coffman (R-CO)
Natalia Vergara, PhD (University of Colorado) with Cong. Mike Coffman (R-CO)
Cong. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) with Elsa Zhuang, PhD (Illinois College of Optometry)
Cong. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) with Elsa Zhuang, PhD (Illinois College of Optometry)

Heather Livengood, PhD (New York University) with Steve Silvestri, office of House Appropriations Committee Chair Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)
Elise Harb, OD (UC Berkeley School of Optometry) with Wendell Primus from the office of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
Elise Harb, OD (UC Berkeley School of Optometry) with Wendell Primus from the office of House Minority Leader Nancy
Pelosi (D-CA)
Rebecca Pfeiffer, PhD (Moran Eye Center/University of Utah) with Karen LaMontagne, office of Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Rebecca Pfeiffer, PhD (Moran Eye Center/University of Utah) with Karen LaMontagne, office of Senator Orrin
Hatch (R-UT)
From left:  Nikki Hurt, office of Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) with Hajirah Saeed, MD (Mass Eye & Ear/Harvard)
From left: Nikki Hurt, office of Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) with Hajirah Saeed, MD (Mass Eye & Ear/Harvard)
Sapna Gangaputra, MD (Vanderbilt Eye Institute) with Arne Owens in the office of Senator Bob Corker (R-TN)
Sapna Gangaputra, MD (Vanderbilt Eye Institute) with Arne Owens in the office of Senator Bob Corker (R-TN)

From left: Mohamed Abou Shousha, MD (Bascom Palmer Eye Institute/University of Miami), Disha Banik, office of Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Hua Bi, OD, PhD (Nova Southeastern University College
of Optometry)
From left: Elsa Zhuang, PhD	(Illinois College of Optometry), Jasmine Wyatt, office of Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Asim Farooq, MD (University of Chicago)
From left: Elsa Zhuang, PhD (Illinois College of Optometry), Jasmine Wyatt, office of Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Asim Farooq, MD (University of Chicago)
Dean VanNasdale, OD, PhD	(Ohio State College of Optometry) with Christa Wagner, from the office of Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Dean VanNasdale, OD, PhD (Ohio State College of Optometry) with Christa Wagner, from the office of Senator Sherrod
Brown (D-OH)
Kate Werely, office of Cong. Mike Doyle (D-PA) with Leah Byrne, PhD (University of Pittsburgh)
Kate Werely, office of Cong. Mike Doyle (D-PA) with Leah Byrne, PhD
(University of Pittsburgh)

Comments from Event Sponsor RPB
For the third year, RPB provided a grant to support the EVS events. This year, RPB Director of Communications Diana Friedman attended the events and accompanied Rose Pasquale in New York delegation visits. Ms. Friedman offered the following thoughts on her participation:

“I was pleased to spend time with the EVSs throughout the two days of events. They did a wonderful job of conveying their passion and expertise, which is what makes science engaging and accessible to lay people. For legislative staff and Members of Congress, getting the chance to interact with young researchers brings NIH and NEI budget discussions to life. Suddenly, these are not just numbers on a page; they represent a chance for new careers, a strong STEM pipeline, healthcare cost-savings, and of course, life- and vision-saving treatments.

I was particularly touched by the interest and support shown by the emerging vision scientists for legislative staffers who asked questions on behalf of family members with vision issues.

And I was especially excited to see the young researchers gain confidence in delivering key advocacy messages throughout the events. It’s so important for emerging scientists to view themselves as advocates for science because they are some of the most powerful and effective voices we have. The skills the researchers honed throughout these two days will play an important role throughout their careers.”

From left: Diana Friedman, Director of Communications for Research to Prevent Blindness, Rose Pasquale, BS (SUNY Upstate), and Timothy Wang, office of Cong. John Katko (R-NY)
From left: Diana Friedman, Director of Communications for Research to Prevent Blindness, Rose Pasquale, BS (SUNY Upstate), and Timothy Wang, office of Cong. John Katko (R-NY)

EVS Impressions/Development
With the 2017 event, AEVR/NAEVR have now sponsored more than 80 EVSs in Capitol Hill activities over the past three years. The Alliances designed this program to be an important component of an EVS’s professional development. Comments from this year’s participants include:

“The EVS program was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. While many of my research studies were funded by government, the visits and discussions with decision-makers made me feel for the first time a real connection between my research and the actions of Congress.” — Dr. Zhuang

“Thank you allowing me to participate—it was truly one of the most rewarding professional activities I have ever had the pleasure in which to engage. It was extremely interesting to “peek behind the curtain” regarding policy matters on Capitol Hill.” —Dr. Rogala

“Thank you for choosing me to represent young vision scientists across the U.S. There is a lot behind the policy and funding decision that affect us that we simply do not learn in our training. I have encouraged a couple of my colleagues to apply for the program next year.” — Dr. Kaleem


NAEVR Sponsors Rally for Medical Research Advocacy Day

For the fifth year, NAEVR has served as a sponsor for the Rally for Medical Research Advocacy Day, and the Rally recognized AEVR’s International AMD Awareness Week Congressional Briefing as an official event. This year’s Rally Advocacy Day—held concurrently with NAEVR’s EVS Advocacy Day—engaged 350 advocates from 37 states in more than 250 Congressional meetings. Although all but one of NAEVR’s EVS Capitol Hill visits were held separately from that of the Rally, the advocates had a consistent message about sustained and predictable NIH funding.