LECTURERS AND PRESENTERS FOR 2022 VOSH ANNUAL MEETING

(listed in alphabetical order)

Kwadwo Owusu Akuffo, OD, FAAO, PhD

Rebeca Carrillo Calderón, B.Optom, M.Sc

Vice President (2019-2021)

Michael Ciszek, OD, diplomate ABO, FVI, President VOSH/International, 2021-2023

Yazan Gammoh, PhD, MSc, BSc (Hons), FIACLE

Kevin Helmuth, OD

Beatriz Elizabeth Gómez Serna, Lic. En Optometría

Jairo Antonio Mercado, School of Optometry, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua (UNAN)

Priya Morjaria, PhD

Damaris Pagan, OD, MPH, FAAO

Director (2018-2023), Treasurer

Mark Rakoczy, OD

Tracy Scott

Ani Tokhmakhian

Kwadwo Owusu Akuffo, OD, FAAO, PhD

Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST),

Dr. Kwadwo Owusu Akuffo is a Senior Lecturer and Head of the Department of Optometry and Visual Science, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana. Dr. Akuffo completed his Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree at KNUST and obtained his Ph.D. degree at the Nutrition Research Centre Ireland, South East Technological University (SETU).  He is passionate about mentoring and supporting the next generation of Ghanaian optometrists and vision scientists.  Through his mentorship, students have won several prestigious international awards, including the Harvard Crossroads Emerging Leaders Program (CELP) and ARVO Developing Country Eye Researcher Travel Fellowship (DCERF). Dr. Akuffo currently serves as a Board Member of the African STEM Network (Afrisnet) and Youth Arise Organization (YAO). He is also the Faculty Advisor for the KNUST Student Chapter of the Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH) International.

His research focuses on ophthalmic epidemiology and ocular nutrition. Dr. Akuffo has published over 40 scientific peer-reviewed articles and contributed to several conference proceedings in his research field. He is an Associate Editor for Springer Nature’s BMC Ophthalmology journal and a reviewer for several ophthalmic journals. He currently has external collaborations with the Human Sciences Research Council (South Africa) and Munich Center for Applied Vision Science (Germany). His research focuses on ophthalmic epidemiology and ocular nutrition.

He is a member of the Ghana Science Association (GSA), Ghana Young Academy (GhYA), Ghana Optometric Association (GOA), and the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO). He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry (AAO), the World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) Young Affiliate, and an African Academy of Sciences Affiliate. He is a recipient of the 2022 George Britton Early Investigator of The Year Award.

Rebeca Carrillo Calderón, B.Optom, M.Sc

Universidad Autónoma de Aguascalientes, Mexico

M.Sc. Carrillo Calderón graduated as an optometrist from the Universidad Autónoma de Aguascalientes (UAA).  She completed an M.Sc. in health systems neurodevelopment, binocular vision, perceptual vision, contact lenses, and the training of faculty for online education.  She is a faculty member at the optometry program of UAA and has supported research since 2001.  She is the faculty adviser of the SVOSH chapter at UAA and has participated in humanitarian clinics with VOSH-AZ, VOSH-TX, and VOSH-Santa Cruz.

M.Sc. Carrillo Calderon is the current President of the Mexican Association of Schools, Faculties, Colleges, and Councils of Optometry (AMFECCO) and is a board member and vice president of professional accreditation of the Mexican Council of Optometry Accreditation (COMACEO).  She has been an AMFECCO board member since 2017. 

Vice President (2019-2021)

Michael Ciszek, OD, diplomate ABO, FVI, President VOSH/International, 2021-2023

Dr. Ciszek graduated cum laude from Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, as a triple major in biology, pre-med, and Spanish. Combining his interests, he spent several months studying in Arequipa, Peru at the Universidad Catolica de Santa Maria.  Later, he went on to the Illinois College of Optometry where he again graduated cum laude and did his graduate thesis on HIV and contact lens wear. Areas of specialty include specialty contact lenses, ocular surface disease, and providing care to LGBTQ patients in need. His local philanthropy is highlighted by his work with Howard Brown Health Center, an organization with a mission to promote health and wellness to underserved LGBTQ patients in Chicago. He is part of a dedicated group of doctors who provide consultation services to the contact lens industry, bringing new technologies to the marketplace. He has also been published in Optometric Management Magazine.  Dr. Ciszek’s experience with VOSH began In 2011 on a trip to Barranquilla Colombia. Immediately moved by the experience and the direct impact on the community, he has now been on a multitude of trips, including Peru, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Mexico and is involved in domestic efforts to provide quality eye care to those in need in the USA..

Yazan Gammoh, PhD, MSc, BSc (Hons), FIACLE

Chair of the Optometry Department, Al Ahliyya Amman University, Jordan – Chair of the Education Committee, World Council of Optometry

Dr. Gammoh is a Jordanian optometrist who holds a Ph.D. in Optometry & Vision Science and an MSc in Optometry from the University of Bradford, UK. Dr. Gammoh is an Associate Professor of Optometry and the chairman of the optometry department at the Jordanian Ahliyya Amman University and a senior optometrist at the Arab East Medical Supply. In addition, he serves as the chair of the continuing education committee for optometry and optical professions at the Higher Medical Council, Ministry of Health, Jordan.  Dr. Gammoh has received several awards and recognitions for his important work in the Eastern Mediterranean region.

Dr. Gammoh has established the first not-for-profit low vision rehabilitation clinic in Jordan to serve children in Jordan regardless of their nationality, or social or financial status. Dr. Gammoh serves in the only private clinic in Jordan solely dedicated to low vision assessment and management.

Dr. Gammoh currently serves on the World Council of Optometry Board of Directors as the chair of its Education Committee.

Kevin Helmuth, OD

VOSH-AZ and Faculty Adviser SVOSH at Midwestern School of Optometry

Dr. Helmuth attended Pacific University, where he received his Doctorate of Optometry (O.D.) degree. He has served as the Director of Optometry for the Gila River Indian Community, Hu Hu Kam Memorial Hospital in Sacaton, Arizona; Staff Optometrist with Prime Eye Care, Phoenix, Arizona; and Chief of Optometry for the Creek Nation in Okemah,Oklahoma, among other optometry positions.

Beatriz Elizabeth Gómez Serna, Lic. En Optometría

Universidad Autónoma de la Laguna, Mexico

Lic. En Optometría Gómez Serna graduated as an optometrist from the Universidad Autónoma de la Laguna.  She is currently completing a diplomate in education.  She has over 22 years of experience as an optometrist.  She has worked independently, on a specialized corneal and anterior segment clinic, and planning and designing the curriculum of the school of optometry at the Universidad Autónoma de La Laguna where she is the current Coordinator of the optometry program and the faculty adviser of the SVOSH-UAL chapter.

She coordinated the screening of over 20,000 high school students in Gomez Palacio, Durango in collaboration with the municipal government.

She is the Schools of Optometry representative at the Board of the Mexican Association of Schools, Faculties, Colleges, and Councils of Optometry (AMFECCO).  She is also a member of the education committee of the Latin American Association of Optometry and Optics (ALDOO). Optometrist Gomez is a member of the VOSH/International Latin American Advisory Committee. This year, she was recognized as one of the most influential women by Vision Monday.

Jairo Antonio Mercado, School of Optometry, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua (UNAN)

Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua

Dr. Antonio Mercado, Nicaraguan, graduated from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua (UNAN) at Managua.  He completed an MSc in methodologies for scientific research and a Ph.D. in quality assurance of scientific research at UNAN.  Dr. Mercado is a lecturer in the faculty of medical sciences at UNAN-Managua and the faculty adviser of the SVOSH-UNAN chapter.  In this capacity, he coordinates the collaborative project with VOSH/International on vision and learning. 

Dr. Mercado chairs the Legislation Committee of the Latin American Association of Optometry and Optics (ALDOO). He is also a board member of the Nicaraguan Association of Optometrists and Contactologists. He is a member of the VOSH/International Latin American Advisory Committee. In 2020, he was recognized by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) as Eye Health Hero under the category of future leaders.

Priya Morjaria, PhD

WCO Public Health Committee Chair

Dr. Priya Morjaria trained as an Optometrist from City University.  She completed an MSc in Public Health for Eye Care at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and joined the International Centre for Eye Health (ICEH) as a researcher, followed by a Ph.D. titled ‘Evidence to improve the Efficiency and Effectiveness of School Eye Health Programs.

In 2017, she was recognized by the World Council of Optometry and awarded the Paul Berman Young Leader Award. In 2020, she was made a Fellow of the European Academy of Optometry and Optics and was also recently admitted as a Liveryman to the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers.

Dr. Morjaria is the co-chair of the School Eye Health Working Group at the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness. She currently serves on WCO’s Board of Directors as the Public Health Committee Chair.

Damaris Pagan, OD, MPH, FAAO

Dean of Clinical Affairs, InterAmerican University of Puerto Rico

Dr Pagan is an assistant professor and dean of clinical affairs of the InterAmerican University of Puerto Rico (IAUPR). Dr. Pagan completed a Doctorate in Optometry from the School of Optometry of the IAUPR. In 2005, she obtained a Masters’ Degree from the University of Puerto Rico, Medical Center Campus.

She is currently the Dean of Clinical Affairs in charge of the six-clinic system of the Inter American University, School of Optometry. She is the faculty adviser for the SVOSH-IAUPR chapter.

Director (2018-2023), Treasurer

Mark Rakoczy, OD

President VOSH-PA / Treasurer VOSH/International

Dr. Rakoczy graduated from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry. He was a recipient of the Alumni Award for Academic Excellence, the Faculty Award for Clinical Excellence, and the Bausch & Lomb Softlens Award among others. He spent the next three years practicing in the US Army and then returned to Pennsylvania to run his private practice until retiring at the end of 2018.

He has been an active member of the Everett Lions Club for 28 years and has served in all board positions. He also has served on the board of the Southcentral Blind Association for over 25 years. He has been a member of VOSH-PA since 2010 and its President since 2012. In this role, he has organized several humanitarian clinics in Haiti, including the recent teaching clinic for last year’s students of the Haitian School of Optometry.

Tracy Scott

Director of Culture, Diversity Equity Inclusion, National Vision Inc.

Tracy Scott serves as National Vision’s Director of Culture, Diversity Equity Inclusion, and Philanthropy. With the help of her leadership, the philanthropic efforts of National Vision and its foundation, 20/20 Quest, impacted the lives of more than 1 million people in need around the world in 2021 alone.

In addition to philanthropy, Tracy is an accomplished culture, people development, and training professional. In her two decades of leadership experience across retail and optical sectors, Tracy has led training for more than 1,600 field leaders and deployed programming to develop the potential of associates company-wide.

Tracy is a graduate of Auburn University and resides in Powder Springs, Georgia.

Ani Tokhmakhian

Ani is a third year graduate student at the Illinois College of Optometry where she serves as the current president of their SVOSH chapter. Originally from southern California, Ani attended UC Santa Barbara and worked in a research lab specializing in visual perception, and spent time volunteering for several organizations such as the Braille Institute in Santa Barbara, the UCLA Mobile Eye Clinic, and the Service for Sight Foundation. With a background in opticianry and a passion for service, she volunteered at health clinics throughout southern California with hopes of continuing this work in optometry school. Now at ICO, Ani has hosted a number of local vision screenings throughout different communities within Chicago and has helped plan two international humanitarian clinics. In her free time, Ani enjoys participating in advocacy work dedicated to empowering others and making a global difference in the lives of patients.

Updated COVID-19 and VOSH Humanitarian Clinics Advice

VOSH/International recently consulted its US and International Chapters about the feasibility and timing to restart our humanitarian clinics. While the vaccination process continues with different levels of success depending on availability and acceptance, it is evident that vaccine inequity and the availability and reliability of data in several countries are issues we need to consider.

Even if already vaccinated and boosted, our chapters are still concerned about the wellbeing of our volunteers and patients.  Some chapters, are organizing clinics locally where they are better able to comply with the existing safety requirements and respective state/country regulations.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its variants are being experienced quite differently depending on state, region, country, vaccine availability, vaccine acceptance, and the spread of SARS-COV-2 variants. Most VOSH chapters are not holding clinics or traveling internationally in 2021 or 2022.

If a VOSH Chapter choses to hold a clinic or travel internationally, we highly recommend that the chapter performs due diligence to comply fully with the requirements established by the visited country, ensures all VOSH volunteers are aware of and follow strict safety guidelines and all existing protocols and regulations of the country, and keeps the principle of “do no harm” embedded in all its decision making. As always, the wellbeing and safety for VOSH volunteers and our patients is of utmost importance and central to any decision-making process. We have published our updated clinic guidelines with best practices to be observed in this new context. VOSH chapters in specific countries are using protocols that need to be considered as well. You can download VOSH/International clinic guidelines here.

*VOSH/International is formed by autonomous US and international chapters that are fully and only responsible for their activities, fundraising and decision-making.  VOSH/International can only provide recommendations based on our best knowledge and information at the time.

Also please keep checking the following sites with official and most recent updates:

World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

US CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/when-to-delay-travel.html

US Government Travel Advise: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/COVID-19-Country-Specific-Information.html

Thank you for your hard work and dedication to improving vision and eye health throughout the world.

Michael Ciszek, OD, dipl ABO, FVI

President, VOSH/International

December 2021