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Emerging Vision Scientists Educate and Advocate on Capitol Hill About Their Research to Reduce the Burden of Eye Disease

Click here to watch a video of the EVS Capitol Hill Reception

The second class of 22 Emerging Vision Scientists (see names in box below) to participate in the AEVR and NAEVR events reflecting the breadth of breakthrough vision research
The second class of 22 Emerging Vision Scientists (see names in box below) to participate in the AEVR and NAEVR events reflecting the breadth of breakthrough
vision research
Built around recognition of Healthy Vision Month and International Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Awareness Week 2016, on September 14 AEVR’s Decade of Vision 2010-2020 Initiative hosted its Second Annual Emerging Vision Scientists Day on Capitol Hill, which was funded by a grant from Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB). The first-ever EVS Day, held October 7, 2015, and funded by a grant from RPB, is documented in a written summary and video.


These 22 young investigators—reflecting the breadth of basic and clinical vision research from across the United States and who have not yet received their first investigator-initiated (R01) grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—attended AEVR’s annual AMD Congressional briefing entitled Advances in the Diagnosis and Treatment of AMD and Retinal Diseases, provided on-camera interviews about their research for a summary video, and displayed posters of their research in an evening reception. On September 15 and under the auspices of NAEVR, they visited their delegation offices to urge that Congress enact a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government funded with the start of Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 on October 1, and after the election recess finalize FY2017 appropriations before year’s end to include the $2 billion NIH increase, as proposed by the Senate Appropriations Committee. Within this larger request, they described their breakthrough research and why federal funding is important to their future success. NAEVR encouraged each of the EVSs to invite their Members of Congress and staff to visit their labs, as well as to serve as a resource for the office.

Both the educational and advocacy activities were built around one question: “How will the breakthrough research being conducted by these Emerging Vision Scientists prevent, delay, and treat vision disorders, which will grow to an annual U.S. 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. In making their case, they cited the August 2016 JAMA Ophthalmology article based on results from AEVR’s 2014 survey entitled The Public’s Attitudes about the Health and Economic Impact of Vision Loss and Eye Disease—commissioned by Research!America and conducted by Zogby Analytics and sponsored by a grant from RPB—which reported that Americans across all racial and ethnic lines rate losing vision as potentially having the greatest impact on their day-to-day life.

AEVR EVS Reception
In addition to the poster display, AEVR Board President Peter McDonnell, M.D. (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine/Wilmer Eye Institute/) hosted a short program at which National Eye Institute Director Paul Sieving, M.D. Ph.D. offered a welcome and discussed the NIH/NEI commitment to early-stage investigators:

“What I see looking around the room is extremely important and a lot of fun. I see the next generation of vision research and the people committed to making a difference for eye and vision health. …The road that you have taken is an exciting one, but not an easy one since the average age of a first-time R01 (investigator-initiated) grant recipient at NIH is 42 years old. The NIH and NEI recognize that challenge and are doing something about it, for example: shorter review cycles for first-time applicants and an emphasis on funding first-time investigators; training grants, such as the K99-R00 Pathway to Independence Award; and the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award. ...We want to fund, mentor, and support the young talent here tonight.”

Dr. Sieving provided his welcome and commitment to early-stage investigators
Dr. Sieving provided his welcome and commitment to early-stage investigators
Dr. Sieving spent time with each of the EVSs, including Petr Baranov, M.D., Ph.D. (Harvard University/Mass Eye & Ear) who described his research into neuroprotective growth factors in the eye
Dr. Sieving spent time with each of the EVSs, including Petr Baranov, M.D., Ph.D. (Harvard University/Mass Eye & Ear) who described his research into neuroprotective growth factors in the eye

NAEVR Advocacy Day
The 22 EVSs conducted 50 Capitol Hill visits, including eight with Members of Congress who wanted to hear their concerns directly. RPB President Brian Hofland, Ph.D. participated, noting his organization’s support for early-stage investigators. Macula Vision Research Foundation (MVRF) Executive Director Dawn Prall George joined Pennsylvania Senate delegation visits. MVRF, a NAEVR/AEVR member, was a co-sponsor of the AMD Congressional Briefing. ARVO’s Matt Windsor, Ph.D. assisted NAEVR’s James Jorkasky and David Epstein in accompanying the advocates and documenting their visits.

While the EVSs were engaged in advocacy visits, just a few short blocks away in the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, NASEM (formerly known as the Institute of Medicine, IOM) released its entitled Making Eye Health a Population Health Imperative: Vision for Tomorrow for which NAEVR served as a sponsor. The report presents nine recommendations to raise nationwide awareness and take action toward reducing the burden of vision impairment and eye disease.

EVS Impressions/Development
In addition to attending the Congressional Briefing, displaying their posters,
and visiting Congressional offices, the EVSs provided on-camera interviews discussing their research and the importance of funding early-stage investigators for a video of the event, similar to that from 2015. The EVS program is an important part of their professional development, and EVS comments in that regard include:


“I would like to thank you for this opportunity to learn a new aspect essential to my career.”
- Astra Dinculescu, Ph.D. (University of Florida)

“Personally, I was quite enlightened by these visits in gaining an understanding of the nuts and bolts of how science policy and funding decisions are made at the government level. I feel that this experience helped me to better develop skills to ‘sell research’ to non-scientists who play a critical role in funding vision research.”
- Daniel Chao, M.D., Ph.D. (University of California San Diego)

“While I consider myself fairly well-educated with day-to-day politics, the hand-on experience changed many of my pre-conceived notions of the manner with which Washington works. I should also mention that the EVS program has the potential to be a career-building tool for attendees. My attendance has impressed my department and it is making university-wide news.”
- Michael Farkas, Ph.D. (SUNY Buffalo)



Luis Vazquez, M.D., Ph.D. (University of Miami/Bascom Palmer Eye Institute) with Cong. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)

Cong. Gary Palmer (R-AL) with Andrew Pucker, O.D., Ph.D. (University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry)

Phoebe Lin, M.D., Ph.D. (Oregon Health & Science University/Casey Eye Institute) with Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) and Morgan Fedorchak, Ph.D. (University of Pittsburgh)

Cong. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) with Osamah Saeedi, M.D. (University of Maryland School of Medicine)

From left: Brian Hofland, Ph.D., Research to Prevent Blindness, Heather Leisy, M.D. (New York University), Morgan Brand, office of Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Michael Farkas, Ph.D. (SUNY Buffalo)

Lisa Ostrin, O.D., Ph.D., left, and Nimesh Patel, O.D., Ph.D., right, both from the University of Houston School of Optometry, with Courtney Asbill, office of Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)

From left: Dolly Ann Padovani-Claudio, M.D., Ph.D. and Anthony Daniels, M.D., both from Vanderbilt University, with Vic Goetz, office of Cong. Jim Cooper (D-TN)

Paula Anne Newman-Casey, M.D. (University of Michigan Medical School) with Sam Schuiteman, office of Cong. Debbie
Dingell (D-MI)

From left: Kathleen Laird, office of Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) with Yao Liu, M.D. (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and Iris Kassem, M.D., Ph.D. and Dan Lipinski, Ph.D., both from the Medical College of Wisconsin

From left: Daniel Chao, M.D., Ph.D. (University of California San Diego/Shiley Eye Institute), Carl Welliver, office of Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Glenn Yiu, M.D., Ph.D. (University of
California Davis)

From left: Alexis Malkin, O.D. (New England College of Optometry), David Bond, office of Cong. Katherine Clark (D-MA), and Petr Baranov, M.D., Ph.D. (Harvard Medical School/Mass Eye & Ear)

From left: Luis Vazquez, M.D., Ph.D. (University of Miami/Bascom Palmer Eye Institute), Corey Malmgren, office of Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Astra Dinculescu, Ph.D. (University of Florida)


Petr Baranov, M.D., Ph.D. (Harvard University/Mass Eye & Ear)
Daniel Chao, M.D., Ph.D. (University of California San Diego/Shiley Eye Institute)
Anthony Daniels, M.D. (Vanderbilt University)
Astra Dinculescu, Ph.D. (University of Florida)
Brad Dougherty, O.D., Ph.D. (Ohio State University College of Optometry)
Michael Farkas, Ph.D. (SUNY Buffalo)
Morgan Fedorchak, Ph.D. (University of Pittsburgh)
Iris Kassem, M.D., Ph.D. (Medical College of Wisconsin)
Heather Leisy, M.D. (New York University)
Phoebe Lin, M.D., Ph.D. (Oregon Health & Science University/Casey Eye Institute)
Dan Lipinski, Ph.D. (Medical College of Wisconsin)
Yao Liu, M.D. (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Alexis Malkin, O.D. (New England College of Optometry)
Paula Anne Newman-Casey, M.D., M.S. (University of Michigan Medical School)
Lisa Ostrin, O.D., Ph.D. (University of Houston College of Optometry)
Dolly Ann Padovani-Claudio, M.D., Ph.D. (Vanderbilt University)
Nimesh Patel, O.D., Ph.D. (University of Houston College of Optometry)
Andrew Pucker O.D., Ph.D. (University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry)
Osamah Saeedi M.D. (University of Maryland School of Medicine)
Mandeep Singh, M.D., Ph.D. (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine/Wilmer Eye Institute)
Luis Vazquez, M.D., Ph.D. (University of Miami/Bascom Palmer Eye Institute)
Glenn Yiu, M.D., Ph.D. (University of California Davis)