Volunteer Faculty in 2017

We are so fortunate to have amazing, highly skilled, professional volunteers join our mission expeditions and training conferences.  They have freely given of their time and talent to make a difference in the lives of those we serve.  We are so grateful for their dedication and devotion to eye care around the world!


Myanmar (MEM) Conference – September 2017


Dr. Penny Asbell

Dr. Penny Abell is the Professor, Department of Ophthalmology Director of Cornea and Refractive Surgery Cornea Fellowship Director Mount Sinai Hospital, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.  She is also an Associate Adjunct, New York Eye and Ear Infirmary Laser Center.   She holds numerous leadership positions in professional societies and other professional groups.  She has written 223 peer-reviewed publications, 1 book,  42 book chapters, 80 other publications, 370 courses and Symposia where she was the Director or Instructor, attended 670 academic lectures by invitation, given 341 interviews, and written 367 abstracts during her illustrious career .  After the conference, she was off to India to teach.


Dr. Mary O’Hara

Dr. Mary O’Hara is the Director of Pediatric Ophthalmology & Strabismus at the UC Davis.  She has published numerous papers as the PI, studying esotropia, amblyopia and nerve fiber layer thickness and contributed to countless textbooks since her training at Wills Eye and Uniformed Services University.  She has taught throughout the US, in China and mutable times in Vietnam.


Dr. Prem Subramanian

Dr. Prem Subramanian is the professor of Ophthalmology, Neurology and Neurosurgery at the Univ of Colorado School of Medicine in the United States.  He is also an active duty Neuro-ophthalmologist at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He has spent the majority of his career working with soldiers who have suffered traumatic brain injuries.  He continues to try to find ways to treat these military soldiers to get them back to health and back to work.  In just the past 3 years, he has co-authorized two dozen peer reviewed articles for major publications.  He is actively doing research in the areas of intracranial hypertension and mild thyroid eye disease.


Dr. James “Brad” Randleman

Dr. James “Brad” Randleman is currently the Medical Director and a professor of Clinical Ophthalmology at the Keck Medical Center of University of Southern California, as well as the Director of the Cornea & Refractive Surgery Service at the USC Roski Eye Institute. He is an accomplished author of several text books, chapters within texts, published abstracts, along with hundreds of articles and communications.  He is a well-sought after guest speaker and featured lecturer, having given over 200 presentations at both national and international conferences in the past decade.


Dr. Annal Dhananjayan “Dhanu” Meleth:

Dr. Dhanu Meleth is a vitreoretina surgeon and uveitis specialist at Marietta Eye Clinic in Georgia, USA. He did his training at Baylor College, the National Eye institute, George Washington University and Mt. Sinai. He is currently working on 13 research projects (mostly uveitis clinical trials), but he has already published over 25 papers. He has written or contributed to many textbooks and has volunteered locally and internationally. Dr. Dhanu has taught at dozens of meetings and universities.  His focus at this conference was on diabetic retinopathy and uveitis.


Dr. Manchima Makornwattana

Dr. Manchima is a busy Doctor!  Since 2004, she has been the Director and a Professor of Ophthalmology at Thammasat University, Faculty of Medicine; she is the Scientific Chair of the Thai Glaucoma Society; She’s a Glaucoma consultant for the past 13 years for both Ramkamhaeng Hospital and Bumrugrad International Hospital.  For the past 11 years, she’s served on the Executive Committee at the Royal College of Ophthalmologists of Thailand, and is the Manuscript Reviewer for the Thammasat Thai Journal of Ophthalmology.  She is the President of the AEC Ophthalmology meeting, AECOM, and the Medical Director of Ruxta Eye Center.  Her research and continuing presence in this field of study continues to educate students and doctors throughout Thailand, and it’s surrounding regions.


Dr. Ron Pelton

Dr. Ron Pelton has operated his Oculoplastics private practice in Colorado for the past 17 years.  He is certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons.  Prior to settling in Colorado, he lived, studied, and worked in Graz, Austria as a Fulbright Scholar; as well as in Tennessee, Texas and Utah.  Since 2007, he serves on the Board of Directors of the Colorado Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons and is the current Chair of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) Ethics Committee.  He is also the American Board of Ophthalmology (ABO) Oral Board Examiner for past 11 years.  He has authored several dozen Abstracts and Publications, written numerous papers in this field of specialty, and spoken at conferences in more than 10 countries around the world (USA, Austria, Poland, Singapore, Bahamas, India, Saudi Arabia, PI, Canada, and SE Asia), sharing his immense knowledge and expertise with the professional community.


Dr. Yean Yaw Choong

Dr. Yean Yaw Choong graduated from University Malaya.  He had his general ophthalmic training in Hospital Kuala Lumpur and subspecialised training in cornea, external eye diseases and refractive surgery  in the Queen Victoria Hospital, the Corneo-Plastic Unit in East Grinstead, United Kingdom.  He provides comprehensive services in the field of cornea and external eye diseases and managing complex ocular surface disorders, dry eyes and various types of refractive surgeries.  He has special interest in managing complex cataract cases is actively involved in teaching modern cataract surgery to ophthalmic community.  Please help me thank Dr. Choong for making the time to be here to share with all of you!  He has literally just flown in to Yangon today!


Dr. Jeffrey J. Rutgard

Dr. Rutgard was educated in Illinois, California and Iowa in the USA, where he was recognized for excellence in scholarship and conducted highly acclaimed research in the areas of immunology, cancer and ophthalmology.  Dr. Rutgard is a guest lecturer for Medical Colleges, Medical Societies, Universities, Schools, Churches, and Humanitarian Organizations.  He is a clinical instructor for small incision cataract surgery internationally, and he has educated more than a thousand ophthalmologists worldwide. For the past 18 years, Dr. Rutgard has devoted his entire practice of medicine to humanitarian missions. He is the Medical Director of iSight Missions and the Hawaiian Eye Foundation.  He volunteers his time with several other humanitarian foundations as well, including SEE International, to serve the poor and help end needless blindness.  He has been on over 200 missions; performed over 145,000 charity patient exams; and has personally done over 15,000 surgeries.  He has performed MORE humanitarian eye surgeries, in MORE countries, than ANY other American Ophthalmologist.


Skills Training Faculty Members:

Dr. Jessica Heckman

Jessica Heckman, OD grew up in Minnesota. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Biology at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN and continued on to earn her Doctorate of Optometry from the Pacific University College of Optometry where she graduated with honors. Dr. Heckman joined Chu Vision Institute in 2010. She has experience in full-scope patient care with a special interest in the management of ocular diseases, pre- and post-op care of cataract and refractive surgeries. She has participated as a sub-investigator in over 20 clinical trials at Chu Vision Institute, and lectures locally and nationally. Dr. Heckman runs the education program at Chu Vision Institute and serves as a preceptor for ophthalmic technician students and optometric externs. She founded and serves as the director of the optometric residency program through Pacific University College of Optometry.


Marche Metoyer

Marche Metoyer, COA, is currently the Senior Clinical Technician at the Chu Vision Institute.  She is a Certified Visa Excimer Laser Operator, Surgical Scrub Technician, Certified Victus Femtosecond Laser Operator, and is a Certified Ophthalmic Assistant and the Manager of the Clinical Technician Department at Chu Vision Institute.  She has been a COA for 6 years.


Vanessa Novak, RN

Nurse Vanessa Novak is the Clinical Director at the Chu Vision Institute.  She has been with them for five years, obtaining her BS from St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota in 2013.  She has more than 10 years of professional comprehensive experience in both health care and business management.  She has special interests in ambulatory, acute and subacute care.


Dr. Sophia Fang

Dr. Sophia Fang is a Resident in Ophthalmology at the University of California, Davis, Medical Center.  She earned her MD at the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine in June 2014.  She is USC graduate in Biomedical (Biochemical) Engineering and has her Master’s Degree in Advanced Studies in Clinical Research from UC Davis.

Dr. Fang is a volunteer with the Flying Samaritans, The LA County General Hospital & Women’s and Children’s Hospital, the Sacramento Metropolitan Lions Club, Chicanos/Latinos for Health Education, and Estate 29 Orphanage.


Dr. Bill Hewak,  M.D., MPH

Dr. Bill Hewak hails from Ontario, Canada.  He was an undergraduate at McMaster University in Hamilton where he majored in Psychology and Biology.  He went on to receive an MPH degree in Epidemiology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.  He attended medical school in Australia and the USA and received his MD from Avalon University.  He was a Fellow of the East-West Center Asia Pacific Leadership Program.  He is also a recent graduate of the Lancaster Course in Ophthalmology, a unique partnership between Harvard University, Colby College and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.  He is currently applying for PhD training in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences.

Dr. Hewak has a variety of interests including flying, geography, pruning fruit trees, reading and short story writing.  He speaks both French and Ukrainian.


Barb Elmore

Barb Elmore, COMT, has been a JCAHPO Certified Ophthalmic Medical Technologist since 1984.   She worked the first several years of her career at the University of Missouri, Mason Eye Institute and then joined the Columbia Eye Consultants group in Missouri in 1986. She has been there since that time!  She volunteers at ATPO and aldo at JCAHPO as a Skill Evaluator.  She has been volunteering with the World Cataract Foundation for decades, going on international missions in Mexico, Honduras, Papua New Guinea and Peru.


Vietnamese American Ophthalmology Society (VAOS):

Barbara Smit, MD

Dr. Smit is a Glaucoma Consultant in Spokane, Washington.  She is currently a Clinical Instructor at the University of Washington School of Medicine since 2005.  From 1982-1991 she was an Assistant Professor and Associate Professor, with tenure, at the University of Washington.  She worked for more than a decade at the Spokane Eye Clinic. She was also with Northwest Permanente as a Glaucoma Specialist, and Oregon Health and Science University as a Clinical Instructor.

She has participated in numerous clinical studies, serves on nearly a dozen committees and editorial services and teaches for UWMC, ASCRS and Glaukos Corporation.  She has presented at more than 80 international, national and statewide meetings and continues to be well sought after to teach and educate residents in ophthalmology. Dr. Barb Smit recently participated as a faculty trainer at the Vietnamese American Ophthalmic Society meeting in Viet Nam in November 2017.


BA, FIJI Mission:

Ralph Chu, MD

Dr. Ralph Chu is the founder and medical director of Chu Vision Institute and Chu Surgery Center, Dr. Chu is recognized as an international leader in cataract and refractive surgery. He is a fellowship-trained corneal specialist whose practice focuses on cataract, refractive and corneal surgery.

Dr. Chu received his medical degree from Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago, Illinois, where he was a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society. He completed an internship at Evanston Hospital and an ophthalmology residency at Duke University Eye Center. Dr. Chu then completed a one-year fellowship in cornea and external disease, refractive surgery, cataract and lens implant surgery and glaucoma in Minneapolis.

He has participated in over 50 clinical evaluations or FDA clinical trials dealing with cataract and intraocular lens implantations, phakic lens implantations, laser vision correction technologies and ocular therapeutic treatments.

 Dr. Chu is a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons, the International Society of Refractive Surgery, the Refractive Surgery Alliance along with 21 other professional memberships.

He has been honored by selection to the editorial boards of Cataract and Refractive Surgery Today, Review of Ophthalmology, EyeWorld and Refractive Eye Care.

Dr. Chu has lectured and taught physicians on nearly every continent including Asia, Australia and Europe, and is a much sought after speaker, both nationally and internationally, regarding cataract and refractive surgery.