Emerging Vision Scientists Educate, Advocate

Since 2015, AEVR/NAEVR has hosted nearly 180 early-stage investigators on Capitol Hill through its Emerging Vision Scientists Day (EVS) program, which is designed to be an important component of professional development as the Alliances train the next generation of vision research advocates. Summaries of the 2015-2021 events—including brief documentary videos—are posted at www.eyeresearch.org.

On September 21, AEVR held its Seventh Annual EVS Day on Capitol Hill which engaged a record 28 early-stage investigators (see box below), including AEVR’s first international participant, who were nominated by their Departments of Ophthalmology or Schools/Colleges of Optometry from across the nation and reflect the breadth of vision research. As with the 2020 virtual event, this year’s program replicated components of past years’ activities, as documented in videos available to view on both the Alliances’ and ARVO Web sites:

  • Brief videos by each of the 28 EVSs in which they describe their research, its promise to save sight or restore vision in patients, and the potential to reduce the cost of vision impairment and eye disease, currently estimated at $177 billion annually but projected to grow to an inflation-adjusted annual cost of $717 billion by year 2050.
  • A 30-minute discussion entitled Moving Beyond COVID in My Career Pathway which focused on innovation that researchers used to work around COVID-19 pandemic clinical and laboratory shutdowns/slowdowns in their patient-centric clinical trials and bench research, as well as in communications and collaborations, and whether these adopted changes will likely become permanent in their career pathway. This video discussion followed that held with the 22 EVSs in September 2020 addressing pandemic disruptions, which was published on July 1, 2021, in JAMA Ophthalmology.

On September 22 and under the auspices of NAEVR, the EVSs participated in more than 60 virtual Advocacy Day meetings with health staff from Congressional delegation offices—including several Members with jurisdiction over National Institutes of Health (NIH)/National Eye Institute (NEI) appropriations and NIH authorization, such as the House Energy & Commerce Committee and Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee.

Timing of the virtual meetings was propitious, as the House had just passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government with the start of Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 on October 1, as annual appropriations had not been finalized. After thanking Members for NIH/NEI funding increases in the FY2016-2021 timeframe, they urged them to finalize FY2022 appropriations expeditiously at the level of the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) bill (NIH funding at $49.4 billion/NEI funding at $877 million), since a CR has a detrimental effect on research as it limits Agency funding to that of the prior fiscal year. Since several offices asked the EVSs about the impact of COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns, they were also able to advocate for the Research to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act (H.R. 869/S. 289) which authorizes $25 billion in emergency funding for research recovery efforts, including $10 billion for NIH.

During a Zoom visit, Kobe Dumas (clockwise, upper left), from the office of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), an appropriator, spoke with constituents Edmund Tsui, MD (UCLA Stein Eye Institute) and Kimberly Gokoffski, MD, PhD (University of Southern California). Alex Muntz, PhD, MScOptom (University of Auckland), AEVR’s first international EVS, joined the call and provided his perspectives on the importance of NEI funding globally and the impact of COVID-19 pandemic research shutdowns.   

AEVR Thanks Sponsors RPB, ARVO, and Novartis


AEVR wishes to thank Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) for its annual grant that supports the EVS Day, as well as the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) for video streaming support and Novartis for event management support.   

RPB President Brian Hofland, PhD, who also serves on the AEVR/NAEVR Boards, offered the following comment after the two days of events:   

“Congratulations to AEVR on a second successful virtual EVS Day. I am grateful to the participating early-career researchers who concisely and compellingly shared their research and how they are moving beyond the research challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. An unexpected benefit of moving to this virtual format in the past two years is that we now have an inspiring video ‘library’ that documents the passion, talent, and continuation-funding needs of these EVS participants.”


The Seventh Annual EVS Day participants included:  
Ji Won Bang, PhD (NYU Grossman School of Medicine)
Lea Bennett, PhD (University of Oklahoma)
Roomasa Channa, MD (University of  Wisconsin)
Xi Chen, MD, PhD (Duke University)
Lindsey De Lott, MD (University of Michigan)
Kimberly Gokoffski, MD, PhD (University of Southern California)
Sylvia Groth, MD (Vanderbilt University)
Jarrod Harman, PhD (LSU Health Science Center)
Patrice Marie Hicks, PhD (University of Michigan)
Rachel Huckfeldt, MD, PhD (Mass Eye & Ear/Harvard Medical School)
Archana Jalligampala, PhD (University of Louisville)
Stefan Kurtenbach, PhD (Bascom Palmer Eye Institute/University of Miami)
Milica Margeta, MD, PhD (Mass Eye & Ear/Harvard Medical School)
J. Patrick Mayo, PhD (University of Pittsburgh)
Mallory McLaughlin, OD (Illinois College of Optometry)
Joseph Mertz, PhD (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine)
Ann Morrison, OD, PhD (Ohio State University College of Optometry)
Alex Muntz, PhD, MScOptom (University of Auckland)
Leah Owen, MD, PhD (University of Utah)
Jennifer Patnaik, PhD (University of Colorado)
Margaret Reynolds, MD (Washington University)
Roksana Sadeghi, PhD (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine)
Daisy Shu, BOptom, BSc, PhD (Schepens Eye Research Institute)
Katelyn Swindle-Reilly, PhD (Ohio State University)
Brian Thompson, PhD (Yale University)
Edmund Tsui, MD (UCLA Stein Eye Institute)
Kevin Willeford, OD, PhD (NOVA Southeastern University College of Optometry)
Thomas Wubben, MD, PhD (University of Michigan)