Announcing… The 2019 Ronald G. Michels Fellowship Foundation Award Recipients

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We gather each year on Friday evening at the annual American Academy of Ophthalmology meeting to honor and recognize the incoming Ronald G. Michels Fellowship Foundation Award recipients and perpetuate Dr. Ronald G. Michels’ legacy.

The Ronald G. Michels Fellowship Foundation was established in 1991 as a non-profit organization whose mission is to support second-year fellows training in vitreoretinal surgery in the United States. Training was key to Dr. Michels, who left the retina community too soon. This year, the Foundation awarded three vitreoretinal fellows the prestigious Ronald G. Michels Fellowship Foundation Award. There are now 98 Michels Foundation Fellows. Dr. Michels was a not only a pioneer in vitreoretinal surgery, he also impacted the lives of residents and fellows during their training at the Wilmer Eye Institute in Baltimore, MD.

Alexander “Sandy” J. Brucker, MD

Ronald G. Michels Fellowship Foundation Chairman, Dr. Alexander “Sandy” J. Brucker, welcomed this year’s Ronald G. Michels Fellowship Foundation awardees, past winners, distinguished guests, corporate sponsors and a special welcome to Dr. Michels’ grandchildren. He introduced Dr. Charles “Pat” Wilkinson & Alice Michels Wilkinson and Dr. Michels’ daughter and Board Member, Dr. Allison Michels-Pettinelli. Dr. Michels’ colleagues surrounded the room as Dr. Brucker remembered Dr. Michels and expressed what a tremendous man, father, doctor and teacher he was. Dr. Brucker invited Annual Meeting Master of Ceremonies, Jonathan L. Prenner, MD to the dais to start the program.

Dr. Jonathan L. Prenner
Annual Meeting Master of Ceremonies for the
Ronald G. Michels Fellowship Foundation

Dr. Prenner always has a quip for Dr. Brucker as he positioned himself behind the podium to greet the standing room only audience. He began introducing each award-winning retina fellow and his or her mentor, each of whom outlined the many accomplishments of the respective awardee. Dr. Prenner said, The foundation was fortunate to have another class of outstanding applicants. The winners this year are well-deserving and we welcome them to the Michels family.

(L to R) Drs. C. Pat Wilkinson, Tomasz P. Stryjewski,
Natalia Callaway, Nicolas A. Yannuzzi and
Alexander J. Brucker

Natalia F. Callaway, MD, MS

I am honored and humbled to join the Michels Foundation Fellowship family. As a medical student at Stanford University, I developed an interest in clinical research and was fortunate to work with incredible mentors in the department of ophthalmology. After completing my residency at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, I returned to Stanford for my vitreoretinal surgical fellowship at the Byers Eye Institute.

Drs. Darius M. Moshfeghi and Natalia F. Callaway

My research interests in the field of vitreoretinal disease primarily focus on investigating ophthalmic disease in understudied populations, epidemiologic evaluations, and telemedicine. I enjoy using my background in epidemiology to harness the power of big data, with the goal of better understanding current practice patterns, associations, and outcomes. Ultimately, I see this information improving the precision of care delivered to patients as we work towards optimizing outcomes through personalized medicine.

Outside of medicine, my time is spent exploring and traveling with my husband and two amazing daughters.

Tomasz P. Stryjewski, MD

I feel very honored to be a part of the Michels Fellowship Foundation family.

After the completion of my vitreoretinal fellowship at Mass Eye and Ear, I intend to pursue an academically minded career, balancing direct patient care with research.

Dr. Stryjewski said, “Being selected as a Ron Michels’ Fellowship Foundation Awardee…one cannot help but feel a sense of ‘imposter syndrome’ when one sees the list of prior award recipients! It is an such incredible honor and humbling experience to join the passionate and committed vitreoretinal specialists of the Ron Michels’ Fellowship Foundation family.

(L to R) Drs. Jonathan L. Prenner, Tomasz P.
Stryjewski and Dean Eliott

My career in translational research began when I wrote my medical school thesis under the mentorship of Dr. Dean Eliott on ocular trauma and risk factors and novel therapies for proliferative vitreoretinopathy. One aspect of this work eventually led to our co-founding, along with Josef von Rickenbach, of a bio-pharma company (Helio Vision Inc.) which developed a unique intravitreal formulation of methotrexate for the prevention of PVR and was awarded Orphan Drug status by the FDA. Helio Vision was acquired by Aldeyra Therapeutics (NASDAQ:ALDX) in early 2019. In addition, with my former co-resident Tony Stefater MD PhD, I have also co-founded another ophthalmic venture (Pykus Therapeutics Inc.), where we are developing a biodegradable polymer to serve as a novel retinal tamponade post-vitrectomy. I have been fortunate to train in the life science community of Boston, where I have received an incredible education in translating bedside clinical observations into potential therapeutic realities.

In our spare time, my wife and I enjoy traveling to national parks and far-flung international destinations.

Nicolas A. Yannuzzi, MD

I am currently a fellow and chief resident at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami where I also completed my residency. Before moving to Florida, I attended Cornell for medical school and spent a year completing translational oncology research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. I am very grateful for my inspiring and dedicated mentors at Bascom Palmer.
My research interests include cost-utility analysis of various vitreoretinal procedures, endophthalmitis, and advanced retinal imaging. I am excited to be a contributing coeditor of a vitreoretinal surgery book written for fellows.

(L to R) Drs. Jonathan L. Prenner, Audina M. Berrocal,
Nicolas A. Yannuzzi, Harry W. Flynn, Jr. and Thomas A. Albini

I am passionate about all aspects of retina including clinical care, teaching, and research and hope to continue these endeavors after I finish my training.

Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my wife and three children, tennis, and cooking. I am honored to receive this fellowship and thank the Michels Fellowship Foundation for its support.

(L to R) Drs. K. Bailey Freund, Lawrence A. Yannuzzi
and Nicolas A. Yannuzzi

I am honored to be a part of the Ron Michels Fellowship Foundation family. It was great meeting all the prior recipients and sharing the award with my mentors at Bascom Palmer. I’m pleased to be joining the faculty at my home institution beginning next summer,” remarked Dr. Nicolas Yannuzzi.

This year’s Corporate Sponsors included Alcon, Genentech, Regeneron, Novartis and the Vit-Buckle Society.

Visit to see past winners and learn more about the Foundation’s mission.

Photo Credit: Kevin Caldwell Photography