Eliminating Blindness Worldwide

For February 27, 2019

Hi WN@TL Fans,
The seal of the University of Wisconsin-Madison features an eye that is receiving (or perhaps emanating?) an arc of rays of light. 
The eye is the organ of sight; it is also a symbol of insight and providence. “To see” means not only to form an image of the world, but also to understand a situation, to grasp an idea. 
In turn, to some writers, the eye is the window to our soul, a portal to our inner selves.  
It’s not only the eyeconic seal that connects the university to ideas and ideals of vision.  For example, UW-Madison has a strong claim to being the discovery place of vitamins, including vitamin A.  It’s a key nutrient that when lacking in the human diet leads to blindness and even death. In 2014 Prof Sherry Tanumihardjo spoke to WN@TL about her research on varieties of maize with higher levels of vitamin A as a possible way to reduce or prevent blindness. 
This week (February 27) we explore more connections with vision as Luxme Hariharan shares insights & sagas from her far-reaching work to end preventable blindness in children around the world.   
Here’s how she describes her talk, entitled “Leadership, Advocacy, Collaboration, Policy & Legislation to Eliminate Avoidable Blindness Worldwide:  Global Best Practices & Country Examples”:
“The great Margaret Mead once said, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’

“Dr. Hariharan’s talk will explore avoidable causes of blindness and childhood blindness across the globe and will share examples from countries and small groups of citizens, leaders and advocates who have battled to eliminate avoidable blindness through advocacy, leadership, legislation and international collaboration. She will highlight examples from her work with the United Nations, Ministries of Health, Universities and most importantly local national advocates and leaders from countries spanning from Mexico, Argentina, India, El Salvador to South Africa. We will explore common themes, shared struggles and similar foundations that unite countries worldwide to control blindness. The overall conclusion is that persistence, determination and local leadership, can surmount any overwhelming obstacle and can redirect any grim situation to further evolve.”

About the Speaker
Dr. Hariharan is a Pediatric Ophthalmologist, a child health advocate, and the Strategic Development, Policy and Advocacy lead for Latin America for SightLife (a non-profit focused on the elimination of corneal blindness worldwide) and a global consultant for the World Health Organization Blindness Prevention Program. She has a keen interest in pediatric eye care and global health policy and has led projects in Mexico, El Salvador, Argentina, South Africa, the Dominican Republic, India, Haiti, Guatemala and Puerto Rico. Dr. Hariharan has experience in policy, advocacy and governance, working with ministries of health for systems improvement and the implementation of childhood blindness prevention programs.
She completed a fellowship in Pediatric Cornea, Cataract and Glaucoma and International Health at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA); a Pediatric Ophthalmology fellowship at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, FL; and her Ophthalmology residency at the University of Pennsylvania Scheie Eye Institute in Philadelphia. She finished her preliminary year in Pediatrics at SUNY Downstate in Brooklyn, NY. She also holds a Masters of Public Health degree emphasizing global and child health policy from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She graduated as a UW Medical Scholar and was commencement speaker at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2004, where she majored in Latin American, Caribbean & Iberian Studies and Biology.

Dr. Hariharan was born in Hyderabad, India ;lived in Nairobi, Kenya; and grew up in Madison, Wisconsin. She is fluent in Spanish & Tamil and is conversational in Hindi & French. Her passion is creating and scaling effective programs & policies to prevent avoidable causes of childhood blindness, both locally and abroad. She most recently worked in South Africa, Geneva, Switzerland, Argentina and El Salvador, with Ministries of Health, PAHO, Orbis International, the WHO and UNICEF on childhood blindness prevention programs embedded into existing health care systems. She is currently working with the Ministry of Health in Mexico, SightLife and the Eye bank Association of Mexico to establish novel quality standards and regulations for corneal eye banking in Latin Amerca. She has drafted tobacco control guidelines with the World Health Organization as a Duke Global Health Scholar, and has lobbied for legislation with the American Academy of Ophthalmology. She serves on the board of directors of Combat Blindness International and also serves on the legislative committee for the American Association of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS). 
She was recently awarded the University of Wisconsin Alumni Foundation “Forward under 40 Award” and was named a 2014 and 2015 White House Fellow National Finalist for her leadership and public service. In her free time, Dr. Hariharan enjoys traveling, hiking, boxing, salsa dancing, sailing and spending quality time with her family and friends.
Next week (March 6) Micaela Sullivan-Fowler of the Ebling Library will share insights into how she wove together two strands of stories for her latest exhibit at the Health Sciences Learning Center entitled “Staggering Losses:  World War I and the Pandemic Influenza of 1918.”  Micaela displays a combination of letters home, journal articles, formal reports and photographs to tell a graphic and often wrenching tale of lives shortened and hopes shattered.  
I hope to see you soon at Wednesday Nite @ The Lab.
Tom Zinnen
Biotechnology Center & Extension Division