Spotlight on members

Developing Country Eye Researcher Travel Fellowship brings a talented researcher from Iran to ARVO's Annual Meeting in Vancouver

The ARVO Foundation hosted eight young researchers from developing nations at the ARVO 2019 Annual Meeting in Vancouver, BC. The program, called the Developing Country Eye Researcher Travel Fellowship (DCERF) program, provides airfare, hotel, meeting registration, a year of ARVO membership and the guidance of seasoned ARVO members to help recipients navigate the meeting.

Shima Dehghani, MD, a talented ophthalmologist from Iran, was initially selected as a recipient of the fellowship in 2018, but the inability to secure a visa to the United States as an Iranian citizen meant she had to defer acceptance until 2019 when the meeting was in Canada.

Dehghani shares her experience at ARVO in her own words.

L to R: Malinda Fitzgerald, PhD, Shima Dehghani, MD, Nikhil Sahajpal, PhD

I am a board-certified ophthalmologist and assistant professor of ophthalmology at Zahedan University of Medical Sciences in Iran. My research areas of interest span both clinical and basic science. They include corneal and anterior surface diseases, refractive surgery and contact lenses, novel surgical devices and techniques and cancer treatment. I have had a keen interest in cases with special diagnosis and, along with my residents, have been actively disseminating our findings in case report publications.


My attendance at ARVO 2019 had many highlights. I learned about many research areas in vision science that I did not know about and I was exposed to the latest findings in vision science by scientists and ophthalmologists from all over the world. I learned about molecular and immunological investigations in ocular surface diseases, which is of strong scholarly interest to me. I also got to meet many scholars from all corners of the world, particularly those who had similar research interests for likely collaborative work in the future. The social events organized by ARVO were extremely helpful in further networking. The Women in Eye and Vision Research (WEAVR) sessions were uniquely inspirational and aspirational and redefined what is possible for me as woman. Seeing all independent, impactful and successful women scientists and entrepreneurs in vision science-related scholarly endeavors and businesses was very encouraging.


The DCERF award helped me in a number of ways. First and foremost, it covered my trip expenses which I would have not been able to afford. It exposed me to an eclectic crowd of scientists, clinicians and entrepreneurs with common interest in vision related science from all corners of the globe. It provided an opportunity to learn about adjacent research areas in vision science. It afforded me a chance to connect with other scholars in my research areas of interest, exchange thoughts, share findings and learn from their experiences. It helped me to grow my professional network. It provided me with two mentors to help me navigate the meeting, connect with others and coach me on networking. They were invaluable resource for me during the conference.


Looking into near future and next career steps, I am hoping to be able to secure a clinical fellowship in ophthalmology or a post-doctoral fellowship in corneal and ocular surface diseases.


Attending ARVO 2019 was a long dream that came true. My students are grateful as well, as telling them about my great experience in ARVO has made them enthusiastic about getting involved in vison research. This experience changed me in the most positive way, to stay motivated and try harder in the face of all limitations I have. This award was more proof that hard work, grit and perseverance will prevail no matter how daunting the challenges are. My experience at ARVO solidified my desire to work harder to mitigate blindness and to fight vision diseases in my country and other countries around the world.

DCERF participants 2019

DCERF participants at 2019 ARVO Annual Meeting in Vancouver, BC