For over 25 years, hundreds of dedicated and hard-working volunteers have donated their time, professional expertise, and resources to VHI’s mission of restoring the gift of sight for tens of thousands of adults and children in Latin America.
Writer/Historian. Golden, Colorado
Mr. O’Rourke is the author of numerous magazine articles, essays, VHI newsletters, and two histories of Colorado. He has been a volunteer participant—with wife and ophthalmologist, Melinda C. O’Rourke, MD—since 1999, following his first trip with VHI to Leon, Nicaragua. He has served on the VHI Board of Directors since 2005.
“On each trip with VHI, the patients remind me, through their words and actions, what humility and gratitude and strength of character truly mean.”
Annie Chang, MD—Vice President
Ophthalmologist. Denver, Colorado
Julia “Julie” Broderick Thomas—Treasurer
Research Manager. Charlottesville, Virginia
Julie has managed research labs in education at the University of Virginia since 2008. Prior to her work in research, Julie worked as a Manager at Ernst & Young LLP, a position which allowed her to observe and assess business processes at many Fortune 500 companies. Julie joined the board in 2014 and hopes to use her business process knowledge to support and improve our financial future. She enjoys solving problems, renovating her home with her husband, Matt, traveling and running. Julie is excited to be a part of VHI and eagerly awaits her first field program trip.
Nancy Burns, RN—Secretary
Registered Nurse. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Ms. Burns has pursued a career in public health nursing since 1990. She has developed skills in individual and community assessment, team building, clinic and staff coordination, and adult and child education. She served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ecuador in 1987 when she first participated with VHI, during the Cariamanga field program. Ms. Burns has served as a member of VHI’s Board of Directors since 1994. She is bilingual in Spanish and English.
“VHI brings into focus why I chose nursing as a career. Even with modest resources VHI accomplishes a great deal, for in just one trip, in just one week’s time, many lives are profoundly changed for the better.”
Richard Whitten, Jr., MD—Chief Medical Officer
Ophthalmologist. Fresno, California
Dr. Whitten attended UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco. He is Fellowship trained in oculoplastic surgery. Dr. Whitten is in private practice, specializing in pediatric ophthalmology and oculoplastic surgery at the Eye Medical Center in Fresno. He serves on the boards of Fresno State Foundation and UCSF Fresno Foundation. Dr. Whitten is a founding member of VHI and has been a volunteer participant on over 35 field programs since 1985.
“After numerous VHI trips I can say with great satisfaction that our work has made a difference in the lives of thousands of people. My work with VHI affirms, both personally and professionally, my decision to go to medical school.”
Thomas R. Bates, MD—Board Member
Ophthalmologist. Orlando, Florida
Dr. Bates began his private practice in ophthalmology in 1965. He retired in 2003. He is a retired Navy Captain with 34 years of active and reserve duty. Dr. Bates now serves on the Board of Directors of IDignity, a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting in the process of obtaining legal identification for the homeless and poor in central Florida. Dr. Bates performs eye exams for the Orange County Health Department and Grace Medical Home. He served on the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church from 1997 to 2003. Dr. Bates has been associated with VHI since 1990, following his first field program to San Isidro, Costa Rica. He has been a volunteer participant on two dozen field programs and has worked in every country served by VHI.
“I believe that God has given me a special gift and I am lead to share it with those who would otherwise be blind. With VHI I have found the perfect vehicle with which to do this.”
Courtney Bourns—Board Member
Divorce Mediation Attorney. West Hartford, Connecticut
Mr. Bourns is a community activist and volunteer in the Hartford area. He has been a member of VHI’s Board of Directors and a volunteer participant since 2009. His first VHI trip was to Limon, Costa Rica.
“I am committed to community involvement and I believe in the notion of thinking globally and acting locally. My experience with VHI has allowed me to witness—first hand—the impact of the organization’s good work in Latin America, performed as it is by a fine group of talented, professional, and dedicated volunteers. VHI has afforded me the opportunity to work with highly motivated people for a good cause and to fulfill my desire to act globally as well as locally.”
Ray Dennis, MA—Board Member
Professor/Coordinator. Haddam, Connecticut
Mr. Dennis has spent more than 40 years working as a licensed optician and contact lens specialist and thirty years of those years as an optician educator. Currently he serves as a Professor/Coordinator of the Ophthalmic Design and Dispensing and Ophthalmic Medical Assistant programs at Middlesex Community College in Middletown, Connecticut.
“There is nothing like the smile of a child who has had successful strabismus surgery performed by one of our physicians. Having an opportunity to re-connect with that child during a follow-up visit, and finding them seeing well binocularly with their VHI-provided eyeglasses is priceless.”
Jennifer Green—Board Member
Jennifer has worked in the medical field for 41 years, in pediatrics, geriatrics, ophthalmology and surgery. She has been married for 43 years and they have two children and seven grandchildren. They spend a lot of time with them and feel very fortunate for that. Soon to be retired, Jennifer is planning on traveling and volunteering. She is very excited to be a part of VHI.
“My experience in Ecuador with VHI has really opened my eyes to the need in other countries. The hope that the people have, the gratefulness, the hospitality they have is beyond anything I have ever seen. There is nothing more heart warming than to take the patch off a patients eye after surgery and witness the pure joy on their face. They can finally see their family again. I am proud to be part of the hard working team that provides this care.”
Annina Griggs, RN—Board Member
Registered Nurse. Lutherville, Maryland
Annina Arthes-Griggs, RN, BSN is a graduate from The Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. She is currently an Alumni Association board member. Mrs. Griggs has worked for Dulaney Eye Institute since 1995 as both an OR and PACU nurse and as a nurse educator. She also coordinates the Quality Assurance and Performance Improvement Program. She joined the Vision Health International team in 2006 following the completion of her first field program in Guatemala. She has served as a member of the Board of Directors since 2010.
“As an American woman with strong Latin American roots I feel VHI is exactly where I belong. This organization has made it possible for me to utilize my nursing skills to help patients in need in Latin America.”
Todd A. Kinnick, DO—Board Member
Grand Junction, Colorado
Dr. Kinnick has been in private practice since 2006 as a staff Anesthesiologist at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado. In 2009 he participated on his first field program with VHI to Piura, Peru. He has been “hooked” ever since. Dr. Kinnick joined the VHI Board of Directors in 2012.
“Helping others, through my work in medicine, has always been my goal in life. Being able to enhance the lives of others through my work with VHI is—and will continue to be—a truly meaningful and spiritual experience for me. Helping others is what makes one’s life whole.”
Douglas J. Lavenburg, MD—Board Member
Marie Lavenburg, RN, BSN—Board Member
Marie Lavenburg, RN is a graduate of Princeton Medical Center School of Nursing and Immaculate University. She has worked as a multi-specialty critical care nurse for 25 years and has transitioned into PACU and OR nursing over the past 10 years. Presently, she assists in her husbands ophthalmology surgical practice covering needs in pre/post and intra-operative areas of care. Married to Douglas Lavenburg, MD; they have 4 adult sons.
A life-long desire to serve on medical missions was fulfilled in Oct 2015 when Marie joined the VHI team along with her husband in Riobamba, Ecuador. The experience was “life-changing”. She is grateful for the opportunity to serve on the VHI board and medical teams.
“Being a part of the VHI medical team in Riobamba, Ecuador was an amazing experience- to be of service to people/patients who really need your help- has always been my goal/ hope in life. The kindness, generosity, hospitality and gratitude of the Ecuadorian people that we served – I have never experience that before, especially from those who have so little. The patients and their families were so patient and gracious in helping me with my Spanish! What a privilege it is to work with a team of medical professionals who have a united heart and to VHI for all the funding, planning and preparatory work…. to make these trips happen!”
Deborah Prince, OD—Board Member Optometrist. San Diego, California
Dr. Prince in an Optometrist in private practice in San Diego. She served two tours of active duty as a Navy Optometrist before returning to civilian practice. Dr. Prince is a member of the American Academy of Optometry, American Optometric Association, and the San Diego Optometric Society. Dr. Prince has been a VHI volunteer participant since 2000, her first trip being to Leon, Nicaragua. She has been a member of VHI’s Board of Directors since 2010. Dr. Prince is the Director of VHI’s Eyeglass Distribution Program.
“Being a member of VHI’s Board of Directors has given me insight into the tremendous amount of behind the scenes work that goes into a successful medical field program. As a volunteer, I’ve had the opportunity to glimpse into the lives of people with very limited or no access to eye care. Something as simple as one pair of glasses can have such a great impact on an individual’s ability to learn or gain employment. I can honestly say that my experiences with VHI have been some of the most personally rewarding of my life.”
Randy Rottman, MD—Board Member
Ophthalmologist. Grand Junction, Colorado
Dr. Rottman has been in private practice since 1989 and was Board certified in 1991. He has been actively involved with the St. Mary’s Hospital Family Practice Residency Program in Grand Junction since 1992.
Dr. Rottman joined VHI in 1990, following his first field program to San Isidro, Costa Rica. He has served as a member of the Board of Directors since 1996. His duties with VHI include trip and medical director for the Piura, Peru field programs since 2005.
“VHI has allowed me to realize my professional dream of making a difference in the World and continually reaffirms my decision to pursue a career in medicine.”
Alan Stern, MD—Board Member
Ophthalmologist. Farmington, Connecticut
Dr. Stern has been in private practice for over 30 years. He is Fellowship trained in cataract and corneal surgery. Dr. Stern is the Medical Director of the Connecticut Eye Bank. He has been a VHI volunteer participant, with wife Cyndi, since 2001 and has served as Medical Director for field programs to El Fuerte, Mexico and Chinandega, Nicaragua. Dr. Stern joined the VHI Board of Directors in 2006.
“Every mission trip is memorable and changes the lives of the people we treat as well as the lives of the volunteers who are part of the team. VHI is one of the finest organizations I have worked with in over 30 years of ophthalmic medical practice.”
Elizabeth Whitsett—Board Member
Elizabeth currently works in real estate development in Indianapolis, Indiana. She attended the University of Virginia where she studied Nursing and Spanish. Elizabeth worked as an RN for 2 years, assisting with skin cancer surgeries and other dermatologic procedures. In 2015, she made the decision leave her nursing position and pursue her passion for real estate development. In her current role, she works as a part of a development team to provide affordable housing in areas of need throughout the Midwest. During high school and college, Elizabeth traveled with multiple medical brigades to bring much needed health care to rural areas of Honduras, El Salvador, and Costa Rica.
“Joining the VHI board presented the perfect opportunity to combine my past experiences with my passion for traveling and community involvement. I am looking forward to traveling with and learning from the VHI professionals involved with the program. I can’t think of a better way to utilize the business skills that I am learning in my current role with my medical and Spanish background. For me, the most exciting outcome of my current job is being able to create a higher quality of life for the people who live in the housing that we develop. I hope to carry that excitement to the VHI board and look forward directly impacting the lives of the people that we serve on each trip.”
International Advisory Council
Javier Córdoba Umaña, MD
San José, Costa Rica
Cindy Goodale, MBA
Frank J. Huezo
Nicole Fedoravicius, MPH—Executive Director
Consultant. Charlottesville, Virginia
Nicole Fedoravicius has conducted grass roots as well as tree tops research since 1995. She has extensive experience working with school districts, non-profit organizations, hospitals and governmental agencies. Nicole is well-versed in a variety of methodogical techniques including interviews, focus groups, and surveys. She has spent the majority of her career working in diverse environments and with a wide array of populations (i.e., including but not limited to school-aged children, youth in foster care and immigrants). Nicole became a VHI volunteer in 2005.
“VHI, as an organization, just makes a lot of sense to me: work with countries who formally invite you; collaborate with governments, local ophthalmologists and hospitals/surgery centers who want you; volunteer with people who share the same desired outcomes as you and provide care to people who wouldn’t receive it, if not for you. Makes for the most productive, and gratifying week of work!”
Meaghan Frisbee, MPA—Chief Program Officer
Meaghan Frisbee has dedicated her career to exciting projects with an international focus. She joins us from Microsoft, where she was a Senior Manager delivering global staffing platforms. Prior to that, she was a grant manager for a Seattle based Latino non-profit, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Bolivia working with women and microcredits, and completed her Masters in Public Affairs with an emphasis on International Development and Non-Profit Management.
Valenti Kyner—Administrative Assistant
Grand Junction, Colorado
Updated November 19, 2015