LEXINGTON, MA–Vision-Aid, a non-profit organization serving the visually impaired, announced its new leadership team for 2020-21.
This year’s leadership team, in addition to its 15-member Board of Directors and 10-member Board of Advisors, adds a new body – the Council of Ambassadors, which will provide leadership in the area of community engagement, inclusion and advocacy, with a special focus on youth.
The team includes an eminently qualified and diverse range of members drawn from a wide range of fields including Ophthalmology, Optometry, Occupational Therapy, Finance, Technology, Health, Management, Academia and Law.
Notably, 17 of the 28 members in the leadership team are women. The new team begins its tenure on July 1, 2020 and has as its immediate focus, the upcoming annual mega-event of Vision-Aid on August 2nd, which is going online this year for the first time.
Puran Dang has been a community leader for over fifty years. He has founded many organizations of international repute. He founded the very first IIT Alumni Association of the IIT Alumni, which has evolved into PAN-IIT all over the world.
Over the last 25 years, he has been Chairman and now Chairman Emeritus of MIT Heritage of The Arts of South Asia – MITHAS and Ekal Vidyalaya. TIE-Boston, Akshaya Patra, Indian Americans of Lexington (IAL), are a few other organizations where he held leadership roles. He is also a Professor of Leadership & Entrepreneurship at Adamas University, Kolkata.
His devotion to Ekal and Akshaya Patra is deep seated. He is also an ambassador of the Perkins School for the Blind. Currently, he is very focused on Vision-Aid as its Chairman. Helping visually challenged children and adults is his major goal. Mr. Dang has won many Awards for his humanitarian service. His alma-mater IIT Kharagpur honored him with first “Distinguished Service Award ” out of some 45,000 alumni. Most inspiring for him is the love of his family and friends who always stand with him.
Council of Ambassadors
Jeyanthi Ghatraju is a Bharatanatyam dancer and choreographer with a mission to perform for charity. She is the Founder of Natyanjali dance school that celebrated its 25th Anniversary in 2019. Today, Natyanjali is a group of dedicated dancers with a mission to perform for the under-privileged. It is affiliated with the Alagappa Performing Arts Academy, Alagappa University, Karaikudi, India and offers Certificate, Diploma and Degree programs in Performing Arts online. Jeyanthi is a Plant Geneticist by training and software quality assurance specialist by profession.
Jeyanthi received the coveted US Presidential Gold Service Award in 2013 and again in 2018 for her community service. In 2019, she received a Massachusetts Cultural Council grant.
Jeyanthi is also the Founding Co-Producer of Vision-Aid productions since 2009. As Co-Chair of the Vision-Aid Ambassador Council, she actively champions the cause of the visually impaired.
Dr. Sonal Patel
Sonal is an educator from Cambridge, Massachusetts. She has taught in various capacities for over 30 years. She is a lifelong learner, involved with learning on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) since 2012. She believes in continuous and connected learning for everyone. She has been promoting learning on MOOCs among visually impaired students since she joined Vision-Aid as a volunteer mentor in 2016. She has mentored around a dozen visually impaired and blind students at Vision-Aid and has taken several initiatives to promote accessible learning on various online platforms for the visually challenged. She regularly volunteers at the MIT Museum, where she shares her passion for learning through various demos with visitors from around the world.
Sonal received the Great Dome Award from MIT in 2014 for her distinguished service to the Alumni Association and MIT. In 2018, she received the US Presidential Gold Service Award for community service in the field of education. Here is a blog by Sonal on edX, one of the popular MOOC platforms.
Dr. Arun Kumar Krishnan
Arun obtained his Doctorate in Vision Science from the University of Houston, Texas and Bachelor’s degree in Optometry from the Elite School of Optometry, India. He completed his research fellowship from the Envision Research Institute, Kansas and was a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. He is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, working on novel therapies for blinding eye diseases, specifically hereditary retinal degeneration. His research interests include visual impairment, retinal degeneration, and macular degeneration. Before coming to USA for graduate studies, he practiced as an Optometrist at Sankara Nethralaya, Chennai, India specializing in pediatrics, binocular vision, and low vision. He joined Vision-Aid as a consultant in 2019 and reviews the quarterly reports of resource centers. Arun enjoys traveling as well as outdoor photography, hiking and badminton.
Board of Advisors
Nazish Agha is an accomplished corporate attorney with more than 20 years of experience. She has worked for all three branches of government: the Senate Judiciary committee, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and for state and federal judges.
As a corporate attorney, her clients have ranged from Fortune 500 companies such as BP and Pfizer to private equity firms and tech startups. Throughout her legal career, she has remained dedicated to public service – both serving on the boards of non-profit organizations and representing disempowered individuals directly in cases. She also served as the Secretary of the Civil Rights Committee of the NYC Bar Association.
Before retiring with 25 years of professional fundraising experience, Cyndi Asmus was the Director of Development for the University of Washington (UW) Libraries from 2003-2013. Prior to that, she served as the first Director of Development for the new UW Bothell campus. A native of the Pacific Northwest, she lived in Pennsylvania for many years where she began her fundraising career first as Director of the fledgling State College Area YMCA and then as the Assistant Director of Development for the Penn State Library.
She also served on the original Vision-Aid Advisory Board from Seattle. She lives in Walla Walla, Washington where she informally consults with non-profit organizations on their fundraising efforts and strategies.
Cyndi earned a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education and Health from the University of Oregon and a Master’s degree in Environmental Education from Indiana University. She taught public school and was a Program Director at the Penn State Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center.
Dr. Loubaina Buxamusa
Loubaina Buxamusa is an Occupational Therapist and heads the Department of the Occupational Therapy Services in the Shrewsbury Public School district. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Mumbai, a Master’s degree in Special Education from the Framingham State University, and a Doctorate degree in Occupational Therapy from the American International College in USA. She has 38 years of experience working as a Pediatric Occupational Therapist with a variety of populations.
Dr. Buxamusa has earned several accolades for her work with children. Her personal passion in serving the visually impaired, her vast knowledge of sensory integration and neuroscience, and her deep belief in the inherent power of neuroplasticity, has led to her desire to contribute her expertise to improving the lives of those living with a vision-related disability. Her own purpose as an occupational therapist, an educator, and a human being is simply to infuse love, truth and compassion into every interaction and realize an opportunity for growth and gratitude in every breath.
Ram Gupta is a Mechanical/Nuclear Engineer by training, but currently manages his
commercial and residential real estate rental properties. After graduating from IIT Delhi in Mechanical Engineering in 1970, he did a Masters in Mechanical Engineering and another Masters in Nuclear Engineering from University of Cincinnati in 1974. He worked as a Nuclear Safety Engineer for Yankee Atomic Company in Westboro, MA which operated various nuclear power plants in New England; and later as a Consultant with Combustion Engineering, Hartford, CT making important contributions to the design of the last nuclear power plant installed in the US in 1980s.
Veena Handa has a Master’s Degree from Lady Irwin College in India and since she arrived in USA in 1972, she has worked for 3 of the leading Fortune 500 Financial Institutions (MetLife, Fidelity Investments and finally John Hancock Financial). During her career, she was a mentor and a coach for employees, as well as an advocate for Career Development. She earned a STAR of Excellence Award for Continuous Improvement and initiated Robotics Process automation for the organization.
She served on the Advisory Board for John Hancock’s Global Women’s Alliance for over 3 years and sponsored a number of programs such as Mentor and Mentee relationship, Monthly Lunches with Senior Management, Networking and Leadership events.
Since her retirement in late 2017, she has been volunteering for different organizations including as Advisory Board member for Vision-Aid, Board Member for Nonprofit Net, Money Management volunteer for Minuteman Senior Services. As a volunteer at Lexington Community Center, she works on multiple projects and has delivered Budget Planning and Retirement Planning talks for Youth and Seniors. Most recently during the Covid pandemic, she joined “Sew We Care” Team which provided over 20,000 masks and scrub caps to Hospitals, Health Centers and Senior Centers and Veena personally made over 1,000 masks and scrub caps as part of this team.
Dr. Deeba Husain
Deeba Husain has been on the Vision-Aid board for 5 years. She is an Ophthalmologist subspecializing in the medical and surgical management of retinal diseases at the Mass Eye and Ear (MEE) Infirmary. A Clinician Scientist and Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School (HMS), she is passionate about research in retinal diseases and has helped pioneer two novel treatments for Wet macular degeneration namely photodynamic therapy and anti-angiogenic therapy. She continues her work in understanding why macular degeneration causes blindness. She has been in clinical leadership positions at academic institutions, at Boston University (BU) as the Director of the Retina Service for 5 years and now as the Medical Director of the Retina Consultants of Mass Eye and Ear. Dr. Husain is passionate about education and training. She was the Director of the Retina Fellowship Program at BU for ten years. At MEE, she is the Director of the Medical Retina Fellowship Program at the Retina Service of the HMS Department of Ophthalmology. She is also the Co-Director of the Age-Related Macular Degeneration Center of Excellence at Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Suraja Menon Roychowdhury
Suraja Menon Roychowdhury is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist trained in Chinese and Japanese styles of acupuncture and herbal medicines. With a PhD in Pharmacology and extensive experience in the pharmaceutical industry in Neuroscience, she brings a unique perspective to the understanding of medical practice.
As a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner, Suraja enjoys connecting deeply with her patients. The inseparable nature of the mind and body is one of the central tenets of TCM, which she finds most satisfying in her work as a neuroscientist-cum-TCM practitioner. Her practice, Crossing Point Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine, is in Lexington, MA. She has given several community talks on TCM and is passionate about spreading the word regarding this powerful, safe treatment modality. To this end, she has served as the Massachusetts State Chapter Chair for Wholistic Health Alliance. Suraja has a deep interest in the use of TCM for the treatment of degenerative visual conditions. She is one of a handful of worldwide practitioners who has been trained in the Micro Acupuncture 48 system, a pioneering approach to treating visual disorders. Her other interests include Hindustani classical music, reading and writing Japanese poetic forms, travel and reading.
Dr. Sabera Shah
Sabera T. Shah is a practicing Ophthalmologist, currently serving as Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. She joined the Beetham Eye Institute of the Joslin Diabetes Center nearly 40 years ago, after completing her medical school and Ophthalmology training in India. Her clinical interest is focused on diabetic eye disease, which involves managing complex diabetic eye disease and performing complex cataract evaluations and surgery. She has dedicated her professional career to teaching fellows, residents and medical students, while maintaining a busy clinical practice. She has published in many peer-reviewed journals, and has remained active as a physician-scientist by contributing to research and the Ophthalmology literature. Dr. Shah has also been involved with international outreach, serving as a returning guest speaker in India for over 25 years.
Lalit K. Sudan
Lalit Sudan is a Managing Director of Market Data Group LLC. For the past two decades, Lalit has been an advisor to senior management teams of several leading global Information Technology & Networking companies. In these consulting roles, he helped identify customer critical emerging business needs and guided worldwide marketing initiatives to achieve profitable growth.
As Senior Vice President at Fujitsu Consulting, and during his engagement with Compaq, HP and several startups, he closely worked with their teams to formulate strategic positioning and oversee business readiness for successful market launches worldwide. He has championed synergistic alliances, acquisitions, directed due diligence and managed integration of people, processes and systems for high employee satisfaction and rapid revenue acceleration.
Before starting the Market Data Group Consulting in 1997, he worked for Digital Equipment Corporation where he managed the Digital and Microsoft Alliance for Enterprise Computing. It opened new business opportunities and displaced key competitors in Digital’s top global accounts.
Lalit has published extensively. He has been a keynote speaker at IT forums, a panelist at the Canadian Global Business Forum and has been interviewed by leading publishing and television business news programs. He holds a MS Management Sciences degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, a MS Electrical Engineering from Oklahoma State University and a BS (Honors) degree in Electrical Engineering from Punjab University.
Board of Directors
Syed Ali Rizvi
Syed Ali Rizvi, a Lexington resident has been serving Vision-Aid since 2013 and as its President since 2015. In 2001 he founded Resolv Corporation and in 2006 acquired SPS Alfachem and launched Health-Xcel, Inc. He continues to lead these companies, which operate in fine chemicals, advanced pharmaceutical intermediates and development of new molecules and nutraceuticals, with offices in USA, India, and the UAE.
Ali is a civic leader, an entrepreneur, a philanthropist and spends considerable time on causes that are dear to him. He has been active at his school and university alumni associations and in civic associations. Ali is passionate about culture and the arts, education for the needy, the marginalized, and for the visually impaired. He has served as the President of the Aligarh Alumni Association of New England, and as the President and Chairman of the Federation of Aligarh Alumni Associations, as a Director on the Board of the India Association of Greater Boston.
Ali serves with various groups that seek to encourage citizens to fulfill their civic duties and has been an elected Lexington town meeting member since 2015. He is a co-founder of the Sir Syed Emerging Society of North America, a non-profit that has helped over 100 students gain admission at premier universities in more than 15 countries, through active student mentorship programs.
Ali is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to help fulfill the mission of Vision-Aid, “To empower the visually impaired to live with independence and dignity”.
Ramakrishna (Ram) Raju
Founder & Executive Director
Ram Raju is the Founder and volunteer Executive Director of Vision-Aid. Ram holds a Master’s degree in Computer Science from the Pennsylvania State University, and a Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) degree in Information Management Systems from Harvard University Extension school. Ram has over 25 years of experience as a subject matter expert in advanced information technologies. He has served as Chief Architect and Technology Lead for several, large and complex projects in both the private and public sectors. He is currently employed as a Subject Matter Expert in a global Information Technology Services firm. Ram has authored and published several research papers in cutting edge technologies ranging from Data lakes to Blockchain technology and presented these at national conferences.
On the personal front, Ram is passionate about service and volunteering. His personal interests are wide-ranging and include Vipassana meditation, gardening and volunteering in several causes, other than his pivotal role at Vision-Aid.
In 2019, Harvard University recognized Ram for his public service with the Derek Bok Public Service award. In the same year Children’s Hope India, a New-York based non-profit recognized him with the “Making a Difference Award”. Ram has been invited to speak at national conferences including the Boston Accessibility Conference.
Co-Founder & Vice-President
Revathy Ramakrishna is the Co-Founder and volunteer Vice-President of Vision-Aid, which she and her husband Ramakrishna Raju co-founded in 2004. An Electronics engineer and Health Informatics professional by training, Revathy currently works as a Program Manager at Fresenius Medical Care of North America, a premier health care company focused on delivering high quality care to people with chronic renal conditions. She has been recognized with several awards and citations for significant contributions in her field of work throughout her career.
Revathy is deeply passionate about service. Apart from Vision-Aid and the Boston Accessibility Conference, she has also volunteered at Shishu Bharati, the Indian School of Language and Culture for over 12 years. She supports several other nonprofits, including Vipassana Meditation Trust and Feeding America, to name a few.
In 2019, Revathy was recognized as the India New England Woman of the Year, because of her significant contributions to the community with her volunteer service. Revathy loves Indian music and is a classically trained singer who has performed in several concerts and radio shows.
Sudhir Varma has been a volunteer Director for Vision-Aid since 2006. Apart from being the treasurer, he mentors and teaches Python programming to visually impaired students. He has a Master’s degree in Computer Science and has over 30 years of experience in the technology sector.
Ujwala Phene is a volunteer Director of Vision-Aid. Ujwala works as a Director Product Management at a leading Financial firm. She holds a Master’s degree in Computer Science from Mumbai University. Ujwala has been a volunteer at Vision-Aid since its inception. She also volunteers at Neighbors Who Care, a Waltham based non-profit that helps elderly people. Ujwala enjoys Yoga and taking long walks in her free time.
Sonal Bakre is a well-known member of the Indian community of New England. She holds a Master’s degree in Human Resources. She strives to excel and contribute at work, home, and in the community. For over 10 years, she has been working with several community-based organizations to spread cultural awareness. Sonal teaches at Marathi at Shishu Bharati, a school system which teaches children Indian culture and language. She organizes cultural events that aim to spread fun, positivity, and Indian values and heritage to young learners. An avid dancer and disciple of guru Jasmine Shah, Sonal is a mother of two daughters who practice the art of Bharatanatyam. Sonal and her daughters have contributed their time and talent to further Vision-Aid’s cause since 2012. Sonal believes in being the active change she wants to see in the world and does so by encouraging youth to see the potential in themselves and use their talents and skills to better the world.
Dr. Bharati Gangwani
Bharti Gangwani (Bharti Nihalani) is a practicing Pediatric Ophthalmologist, and holds the position of Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. She is also a Director of Clinical Research for the department of Ophthalmology at Boston Children’s Hospital. She has about 50 publications in various medical journals and books. She is a co-editor of a renowned book in strabismus management called “Learning strabismus surgery-A case-based approach”. The blind and visually impaired hold a special place in her heart and she would like to give back to the community by helping them live with independence and dignity, which is her motivation for joining the Vision-Aid Board of Directors.
Paramesh Garimella has been serving on the Board of Vision-Aid for the past 15 years, right from its inception. He was the first President of Vision-Aid from 2005 to 2007 and then continued to serve as a board member. He is very passionate about the needs of the visually impaired because of his father’s low vision during his old age. When Ramakrishna Raju, the founder of Vision-Aid approached Paramesh to join Vision-Aid in 2005, he immediately accepted as it struck a chord with him. Paramesh Garimella is an IT professional and was working with Novartis Vaccines till 2018 before taking early retirement. He is now an independent IT consultant leveraging his experience from his consultancy days with PricewaterhouseCoopers and IBM.
Vineeta Kumar is a management consultant and business advisor by profession. In a career spanning 25 years in the Consulting and Advisory industry, Vineeta has led key business initiatives, managing multi-million dollar operations globally and working with Fortune 500 clients across industries. She is currently working as an Associate Vice President with Infosys, a global leader in the IT consulting and Digital Transformation space. Prior to Infosys, Vineeta was the Global Head of Business Development for the Securities & Capital Markets division of Wipro, where she led key client acquisition initiatives in the Financial Services industry. At Headstrong, she established, scaled and managed the Buyside Capital Markets Unit.
It is important for Vineeta to live a meaningful life full of compassion and courage, pursuing her many passions beyond professional success. She finds her community related activities immensely fulfilling, therefore volunteers through various organizations, events and projects, lending her voice, time and resources to important issues and initiatives. Vineeta is currently serving her second term as a Lexington Town Meeting Member and has recently concluded a 3-year team on Lexington Education Foundation’s Board.
Dr. Aparna Raghuram
Aparna received her PhD from the University of Missouri-St Louis and obtained her Doctorate in Optometry from the New England College of Optometry. She is an Optometrist working at Boston Children’s Hospital for past 11 years. Her clinical area of expertise is to assess and manage double vision, visual function following concussion and reading difficulties, low vision and functional vision assessment. She is an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School. Prior to coming to the United States for graduate studies, she received her Bachelor’s degree in Optometry from Elite School of Optometry/Birla Institute of Technology. She joined Vision-Aid’s Board in 2016 and was seminal in establishing Vision-Aid’s collaboration with Sankara Nethralaya/Medical Research Foundation. Outside of work, Aparna enjoys travel, running and playing board games with her family.
Dr. Ramkumar Ramamirtham
Ramkumar Ramamirtham received his PhD in vision science from University of Houston and obtained his Doctorate in Optometry from the New England College of Optometry. He is currently engaged in Ophthalmic research at Boston Children’s Hospital and is a clinical eye care provider at a North Shore private practice. Prior to coming to the United States for graduate studies, he received his Bachelor’s degree in Optometry from Sankara Nethralaya, Chennai, India. He and his wife Nalini have been volunteering for Vision-Aid’s annual event since 2017. Ram recently joined Vision Aid’s Board of Directors. His passion for the cause resonates with his professional expertise and enables him to give back to the community and his roots back home.
Ravi Rastogi is a Board Member of Vision-Aid since 2016. He coordinates the teaching of “Vision-Aid’s online programming course” for visually impaired students. Currently, Ravi is a Member of Technical Staff at MIT-Lincoln Laboratory, Lexington, MA. Prior to that Ravi worked at Intel Corp. Ravi also served as the President of IITSINE (now IIT-AGNE), Director of India Association of Greater Boston (IAGB), and was a Core Team member of 2016 PAN-IIT Conference. He aims to continue his involvement in community organizations and also helping realize Vision-Aid’s mission and vision.
Harjinder Kaur (Lovely Singh)
With a dual Master’s degree in Education and English, Harjinder Kaur (Lovely Singh) is a former teacher with Ontario School Board. She now lives in Reading, MA with her husband and two teenage boys and is passionate about singing and dancing. She has organized a number of social and cultural activities such as fashion shows, dancing events, Bollywood style online fitness classes, and has been a Science Olympiad volunteer. She is also on the Board of United India Association of New England (UIANE).
Dr. Rita Vachani
Rita Vachani has over 20 years of technology leadership experience in the telecommunications industry. She retired from Verizon as Vice President of Information Technology, part of the senior management team of the company. Prior to this, Rita was Executive Director, Program Management, responsible for managing the design and delivery of a new systems suite that enabled Verizon to launch its high-speed residential all-fiber service (FiOS).
For the past 5 years, Rita has been actively volunteering with organizations focused on education of underserved and underprivileged populations. Rita joined Vision-Aid’s Board of Directors in 2017. She also serves on the Communications Advisory Committee of the Town of Lexington, MA.
Rita holds a PhD in Operations Research from MIT and an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.
Dr. Santosh Vempala
Santosh Vempala has been a Director with Vision- Aid since 2005. He is a Professor at Georgia Tech, and thinks about algorithms, high-dimensional geometry, randomness and foundations of data science. In recent years, he has been preoccupied with developing a computational theory of the brain. Santosh got his PhD in 1997 from Carnegie Mellon University and was a Professor of mathematics at MIT till he moved to Georgia Tech in 2006. His partner, Rosa Arriaga, is also a faculty member at Georgia Tech and works on technology and interfaces for chronic care. He had the good fortune of mentoring Aditi Shah, one of Vision-Aid’s stars, while she was getting her MS degree. (For more information, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santosh_Vempala)