Emerging Vision Scientists Educate, Advocate Virtually

On September 23, AEVR held its Sixth Annual Emerging Vision Scientists Day on Capitol Hill which engaged 22 early-stage investigators nominated by their Departments of Ophthalmology or Schools/Colleges of Optometry from across the nation and reflecting the breadth of vision research. This year’s event virtually replicated components of past years’ activities, as documented in videos available to view on the Alliances’ and ARVO Web sites:

  • Brief videos by each of the 22 EVSs in which they describe their research and its potential promise for patients.
  • A one-of-a-kind 30-minute discussion entitled Impact of COVID-19 Lab Closures on the Next Generation of Vision Scientists that engaged the EVSs in addressing such topics as patient engagement, animal colonies and cell cultures, collaborations, training, and career pathway.

On September 24 and under the auspices of NAEVR, the EVSs participated in Advocacy Day phone calls with health staff from Congressional delegation offices—and in some cases, the Member of Congress. Due to their geographic location, several EVSs spoke with staff of key appropriations leaders in which they emphasized the importance of finalizing FY2021 appropriations and providing emergency funding for NIH research relief.  Participants also educated staffers about the impact of COVID-19 pandemic clinical and laboratory shutdowns on their research and encouraged them to view AEVR’s dedicated video conversation.

EVS Impressions/Development

The Alliances designed this program to be an important component of an EVS’s professional development and to train the next generation of vision research advocates. This year’s participants commented:

“Many thanks for this opportunity to participate. AEVR/NAEVR did a great job adapting to the new delivery method, editing our personal videos and the COVID-19 discussion as well as preparing us for our legislative calls. In similar delivery fashion to Senator Blunt’s legislative assistants, please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you need another resource in the vision space.”  — Dr. Tareq Nabhan

“This year was undoubtedly a challenge with lots of uncertainties, but I can say confidently that it was exceptionally well done and am honored to have participated. The phone Hill meetings provided great insight into Congressional office operations and feel that they were largely productive and well received with our central message about government research support.”  — Dr. Kevin Fuller

“I had very fruitful conversations with all offices, including discussing in great depth many research issues related to COVID-19 pandemic lab closures that affect us now and in the future.  Thank you for putting this excellent meeting together, which required a lot of hard work. I am grateful for being part of it.”  — Dr. Eleftherios Paschalis   

AEVR Thanks Sponsors RPB, ARVO, and Novartis

AEVR wishes to thank Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) for its annual sponsorship of EVS Day, ARVO for video streaming support, and Novartis for video management support.  

RPB President Brian Hofland, PhD, who is also an AEVR/NAEVR Board member, joined the September 23 Hill training session along with AEVR/NAEVR President Paul Lee, MD, JD. After the events, Dr. Hofland offered the following comment:  

“Congratulations to AEVR/NAEVR and all of the early-career researchers involved in this year’s EVS Day events. These activities are critical for educating Congress about the value of vision research and the need for robust, sustained funding for the NEI. This year, participants pivoted to a virtual format, creating engaging videos that showcased the innovation and impact of their work and highlighting both the great potential of research as well as the challenges this next generations of vision scientists currently face.”    

The Sixth Annual EVS Day participants included:
Janet Alexander, MD (University of Maryland)
Raven Diacou, PhD (Albert Einstein College of Medicine)
Becca Edwards, MD, PhD (University of Colorado)
Kevin Fuller, PhD (Oklahoma Health Sciences Center)
Thomas Johnson, MD, PhD (Wilmer Eye Institute /Johns Hopkins University)
Arathy Kartha, PhD (Wilmer Eye Institute /Johns Hopkins University)
T.Y. Alvin Liu, MD (Wilmer Eye Institute /Johns Hopkins University)
Samantha McIntosh, OD (NOVA Southeastern College of Optometry)
Freya Mowat, PhD (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Lucy Mudie, MD, MPH (University of Colorado)
Tareq Nabhan, OD (University of Missouri College of Optometry)
Eleftherios Paschalis, PhD (Mass Eye & Ear)
Jolene Rudell, MD, PhD (University of California San Diego)
Benjamin Sivyer, PhD (Casey Eye Institute /Oregon Health & Science University)
Swarup Swaminathan, MD (Bascom Palmer Eye Institute/University of Miami)
Christopher Taylor, PhD (New England College of Optometry)
Matthew Veldman, PhD (Medical College of Wisconsin)
Lauren Wareham, PhD (Vanderbilt University)
Benjamin Xu, MD, PhD (University of Southern California)
Phillip Yuhas, OD, PhD (Ohio State University College of Optometry)
Nazlee Zebardast, MD (Mass Eye & Ear)
Xiaoying Zhu, MD, OD, PhD (SUNY College of Optometry)