Harvard Ophthalmology faculty meet with members of Congress to advocate for vision research

October 24, 2017

As part of the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (AEVR) Emerging Vision Scientists Program, Neena Haider, PhD, and Hajirah Saeed, MD, met with Congress members and their legislators on September 13-14, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC to advocate for vision research.

The focus of this year’s event was age-related macular degeneration (AMD) research, which coincided with International AMD Week 2017 and Healthy Aging Month.  

The needs of those affected by AMD are urgent and complex. As the population ages,  millions of baby boomers will lose their central sight to AMD,” said Dr. Haider, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School (HMS), Associate Scientist at Schepens Eye Research Institute of Mass. Eye and Ear, and a member of the Harvard Ophthalmology AMD Center of Excellence.  “Our goal was to emphasize the immediate need to increase research funding, especially for the National Eye Institute (NEI). While we appreciate the Senate moving the bill forward to increase National Institutes of Health funding by $2 billion, less than five percent of that funding is allocated to NEI.”

Neena Haider with members of Congress

Pictured left to right: Mathew Levine (Consultant, AMDF), Paul F. Gariepy (Secretary and Trustee), Neena Haider, Joseph Kennedy III (Massachusetts Congressman), Jennifer Williams (Marketing Director), Mark Torrey (Vice President and Trustee) and John (Chip) Goehring (President of AMDF, Board of Trustee)

Dr. Haider attended this event with the American Macular Degeneration Foundation, and met with Massachusetts Congressman Joseph Kennedy III, as well as members of the offices of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Vermont Senators Patrick Leahy, and Bernie Sanders. Dr. Saeed was selected by AEVR to attend the program and presented her research on the economic and societal impact of Stevens Johnson syndrome. She met with staff members from the offices of Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, and Massachusetts Representative Stephen Lynch.

Hajirah Saeed (right) with staff member

Pictured from left: Nikki Hurt, office of Senator Ed Markey, and Hajirah Saeed

“Advocating for increased funding for scientists who conduct vision research is critical,” said Dr. Saeed, Instructor in Ophthalmology at HMS. “The most effective way to do this is for lawmakers to hear directly from their scientific constituency.”

Established in 2015, the AEVR Emerging Vision Scientists Program facilitates meetings between scientists and members of Congress to discuss the importance of funding vision research. Past attendees from Harvard Ophthalmology include Jason Comander, MD, PhD; Leo Kim, MD, PhD; and Petr Baranov, MD, PhD.