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Celebrating women in leadership


In ophthalmology, women continue to take on leadership roles and make a difference in the profession.

(image Credit: AdobeStock/Syda Productions)

(image Credit: AdobeStock/Syda Productions)

In the United States, March is Women’s History Month, a celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture, and society, and it has been observed annually since 1987.

Additionally, International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the economic, political, and social achievements of women, has been recognized on March 8 in many countries around the world since 1911.

We take this opportunity to reflect on the remarkable strides made by women in the field of ophthalmology, from the early pioneers who dared to defy societal norms and pursue careers in medicine to the leaders who continue to break barriers today.

We are proud to recognize 4 female leaders in our industry who are playing an integral role in shaping the landscape of ophthalmology in 2024.

Nivine Woods, PharmD, MBA

President of Ophthalmic World Leaders: Advancing Diversity in Leadership

Nivine Woods began her term as president of Ophthalmic World Leaders (OWL): Advancing Diversity in Leadership in November 2023 and will serve in the role for a maximum of 2 years. With OWL celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, Woods shares that the organization has made remarkable progress over the past 2 decades, serving as a platform for collaboration, mentorship, and advocacy. This nonprofit organization has been instrumental in fostering a culture of inclusivity and empowerment, providing its members with the resources and support they need to thrive in their careers.

Asked about the goals for her presidency, Woods states that she is proud of OWL’s expansion of its efforts into optometry (an initiative they have lovingly termed “bridging the O’s”), which allows them to engage with a wider key audience.

Secondly, Woods says she is excited that OWL has developed and expanded new collaborations with the LGBTQ+ communities with programs such as Eyes on Inclusion, which strengthened OWL’s mission and allowed it to reach new heights in its advocacy for diversity in leadership.

Expressing her enthusiasm about OWL’s next chapter, Woods says, “My vision is to continue the organization’s vision of advancing diversity in leadership through mentorship, education, and advocacy.”

Woods concludes by saying, “I am dedicated to fostering a culture of inclusivity, ensuring that women from all backgrounds have the opportunity to thrive in their careers. I am eager to leverage OWL as a platform to amplify the diverse voices in eye care and champion their achievements and professional growth.”

Elizabeth Yeu, MD

President of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery

Elizabeth Yeu, MD, began her 1-year term as president of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) in May 2023. As she approaches the end of her presidency, she recognizes that a year is not a long time to move or change an organization. However, she has aspired to listen to and work closely with the ASCRS family years in advance of her presidency to have as much institutional knowledge as possible for easy transition and baseline understanding of the inner workings.

Yeu outlined a key priority for her presidency by ensuring ASCRS would provide fresh, high-quality education at every level and for every anterior segment surgeon. Apart from clinical education, she believes more than ever that ASCRS has to advocate for and teach surgeons about the dynamic nonclinical aspects, such as the business of medicine and often urgent and persistent efforts needed with payers and government relations. She notes that the organization works to provide guidance, objective information, and direction to empower members to voice their opinions effectively.

“The ASCRS is very good at listening and evolving to make sure it’s not stale in its approach, and this is something we’re all proud of,” she notes.

In addressing her hopes for the future of ASCRS, Yeu recognizes the expansion of digital topics and education.

“It’s vital for the organization to acknowledge the importance of catering to all generations,” she states. “We must recognize the need for educational formats that resonate with diverse age groups. While traditional lectures and skills transfer are valued, the organization needs to continue to incorporate alternative learning options to accommodate the preferences of the younger generation.”

Jane C. Edmond, MD

President of the American Academy of Ophthalmology

Jane Edmond, MD, began her 1-year term as president of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) in January 2024. An ophthalmologist who specializes in both pediatric and neuro-ophthalmology, Edmond was elected to leadership by the AAO’s community of 32,000 ophthalmologists.

Asked about her priorities for her presidency, Edmond states that she is passionate about highlighting and addressing physician and staff shortages while protecting patient safety.

“Unfortunately, signs point to a potential shortage of ophthalmologists over the next decade,” she says. “Couple that with a growing [older] population, limited expansion of residency programs, and declining reimbursements, and the physicians’ jobs become even more challenging.”

Asked for her hopes for the future of the AAO, Edmond states, “There’s so much passion and drive in the ophthalmology community, and we have lobbied hard for the safety of our patients these past several years. I believe the academy can continue to push for our patients, educate our members, and inspire future generations of ophthalmologists.”

Filomena Ribeiro, MD

President of European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons

Filomena Ribeiro, MD, became president of the European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons (ESCRS) in January 2024 and will serve a 2-year term.

Ribeiro notes that her key areas of focus for her presidency will be continuing the organization’s environmental responsibility through its Mission Zero initiative but also venturing into the area of social responsibility, with a strong emphasis on equity and inclusivity, which is a passion of hers. Ribeiro states that “the ESCRS has been entrusted with the responsibility of representing the diverse interests and perspectives of our esteemed members and congress delegates, a responsibility I hold in high regard.”

In addition, Ribeiro hopes to strengthen connections with international ophthalmological societies to create a collaborative environment that benefits all.

Asked about her hopes for the future of ESCRS, Ribeiro states that she is confident that the organization can continue its dedication to advancing excellence in cataract and refractive surgery, ensuring that its members remain at the forefront of this dynamic field. This can be achieved while increasing its focus on education, innovation, and inclusivity.

These incredible women will join those who came before them and pave the way for a brighter, more inclusive future for women in ophthalmology. Let us look to the future with hope and excitement, united in our pursuit of equity in our field.

Gaynor Fries
Gaynor Fries is the executive director of Ophthalmic World Leaders: Advancing Diversity in Leadership, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a vision of increased diversity in ophthalmic leadership.

  1. Women’s History Month 2024. History. August 21, 2018. Updated February 20, 2024. https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/womens-history-month
  2. Women’s History Month 2023 - dates, facts, quotes. History. Updated February 20, 2024. https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/womens-history-month#international-women-s-day
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