Board of Directors
Neda Gioia OD, CNS®, FOWNS, CFMP
President

“One patient and one doctor at a time.” This is Dr. Neda Gioia’s motto to help change the landscape of healthcare. With 17 years of optometric clinical experience spanning 3 states, her personal success in nutrition inspired her to pursue a formal education in functional medicine and clinical nutrition so that she could implement it in practice. She completed her doctorate in optometry at SUNY College of Optometry, in New York. Over the past ten years she has earned a certification in functional medicine, followed by completing her fellowship with the Ocular Wellness and Nutrition Society. She also received her Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS®) through the University of Western States. Currently she is completing an additional certification through the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM). She is the founder and owner of Integrative Vision, an optometry practice with a special emphasis on nutritional interventions and functional medicine modalities for eye health. Her approach to eyecare involves treating the whole body and optimizing her patients’ foundation.

She is the recipient of the 2021 Theia Award of Excellence in Innovation and supports advocacy for change in healthcare. Dr. Gioia is also on the advisory board for Women in Optometry and a subject matter expert for the American Nutrition Association. She is a member of the New Jersey Society Optometric Physicians, American Optometric Association, American Nutrition Association, and The Institute for Functional Medicine.

Dr. Gioia’s long-term goal is to equip physicians with the proper nutrition guidelines and practice implementations to empower their patients to achieve better health and a better life.

Steven Pratt, MD, FACS, ABIHM
Vice President

Steven G. Pratt MD, FACS, ABIHM is a clinical assistant professor of ophthalmology at the University of California, San Diego. He has had training in holistic medicine and has a degree with the American Board of Holistic Medicine. (ABIHM) He is the author of five Super Foods books, including two New York Times bestsellers, SuperFoodsRx and SuperFoods HealthStyle. He is responsible for all the science behind the SuperFoodsRx brand. Dr. Pratt is a world-renowned authority on the role of nutrition and lifestyle in preventing disease and optimizing health. He has appeared on major national media including Today, The View, Fox News and Oprah. Oprah has dubbed him as “The Food Dude.”

His books have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, O, Time, Newsweek, Men’s Health, Shape, Martha Stewart Living, the San Diego Union, the Westin Hotel ‘s worldwide, and other publications. Dr. Pratt has been a nutritional consultant to top athletes, and he is a senior staff member of Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California. He lectures around the world, and has been featured at world famous Health Spas, including Rancho La Puerta, Golden Door, and Cal A Vie.

Julie Poteet, OD, MS, CNS, FONS
Immediate Past President
Dr Julie Poteet graduated from The New England College of Optometry and then completed a residency in primary care and ocular disease at the VA Medical System in Boston. At the VA, Dr. Poteet became interested in why some veterans seemed to age so differently than their peers and began questioning what lifestyle factors have the greatest impact on health and vitality. She then went on to complete a Master’s of Science in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine. After earning her Master’s degree, she then completed the requirements to become a Certified Nutrition Specialist in 2015. Dr. Poteet served as Vice President of the Ocular Wellness & Nutrition Society (OWNS) for six years under her mentor Dr. Stuart Richer. She is a Fellow of OWNS, where she serves as the current President Emeritus. She has lectured extensively on the microbiome and immune system dysfunction. She works in Atlanta, Ga., where her office is a Macular Degeneration Center of Excellence. She is a member of the American Nutrition Association, formerly the American College of Nutrition. Dr. Poteet is passionate about carrying on the legacy of her mentor, Dr. Stuart Richer, whose mantra “repair the roof before it starts raining” is an excellent metaphor for using lifestyle and nutrition to not only mitigate the course of disease but prevent it.
Dennis Ruskin, OD, FAAO
Secretary

Dr. Dennis Ruskin graduated from the University of Waterloo in 1976 with a Doctor of Optometry degree, the same year he established his full scope practice in Toronto, Ontario. In 1989, he became a fellow of the American Academy of Optometry. Dr. Ruskin has been an appointed advisory member to various committees within the provincial government, College of Optometrists of Ontario, Ontario Association of Optometrists, pharmaceutical corporations. He is a past president of the College of Optometrists of Ontario, the regulatory body that licenses and regulates optometrists. As well, he has had a clinical affiliation with the Vision Institute of Canada and has served as examiner for the Canadian Examiners of Optometry. He lectures to eye care professionals in North America. Dr. Ruskin has an interest in nutrition and its impact on ocular and systemic disease. He is a founding board member of the Ocular Wellness and Nutrition Society, founding chair of the Ocular Nutrition Special Interest Group of the American Academy of Optometry (AAO), and a member of the Nutrient, Disease Prevention and Wellness Special Interest Group of the AAO.

Dorothy L. Hitchmoth, OD, FAAO, ABO, ABCMO DIPLOMATE
Treasurer

Dr. Hitchmoth is a nationally-recognized award-winning professor, lecturer and educator who has authored countless scientific papers, editorials and book chapters.  She is Fellow of the Academy and the Retina Society and is dual board-certified.  She had a 22 year tenure serving our nations veterans at the Department of Veterans Affairs and served as Chief of Optometry, Director of Residency,  health systems analyst, and is a recognized telehealth expert. She has owned and operated a  private-practice for 27 years that she expanded in 2018.  The practice has been recognized as a macular degeneration center of excellence and during COVID provided important emergency eye care for a local critical access hospital in rural New Hampshire.  Dr. Hitchmoth is a Senior Business Consultant for Percept Corp., and Zeiss Meditec, and serves on many medical and scientific advisory and non-profits to include Board of Trustees at her Alma Mater, NECO.

She has been a key influencer in public policy and legislation regarding access to eye and health care and is a past State society President and has served in leadership roles in the American Optometric Association over the past 28 years.  She was named the AOA Advocate of the Year in 2017 and the AOA Young OD of the Year in 2003 and has received countless other awards.  In 2020, she was recognized by Project Cure for her leadership in editorial publication about the COVID pandemic and appears regularly on social media and television interviews, has been featured in two documentary films and has been dubbed “America’s eye doctor” by her colleagues.

Dr. Lara Zakaria PharmD MS CDN CNS IFMCP

Dr. Zakaria is a Pharmacist and Nutritionist with a focus in implementing solutions for Functional Medicine and personalized nutrition. A graduate of the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, at Rutgers University (BSpharm) and the University of Colorado Skaggs College Of Pharmacy (PharmD), she spent 20 years in community pharmacy practice. After developing an interest in nutrition, she earned a MS in Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport and subsequently qualified as a Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) as well as an Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner (IFMCP). Dr Zakaria’s practice focuses on a multi-disciplinary approach working both one-on-one with patients as well as creating implementation tools and systems for scale. She is also adjunct professor of nutritional biochemistry and therapeutics at the University of Bridgeport, faculty at George Washington University, as well as guest instructor for Functional Medicine at LECOM College of Pharmacy and has served as mentor and supervisor for CNS and pharmacy students. Lara is passionate about gut health and the prevention and reversal of metabolic, allergic, and autoimmune disease. There’s power in community, working with pharmacy professionals, nutritionists, and other clinicians to leverage their unique expertise to amplify the message of personalized nutrition and FxMed.

Kaleb Abbott
Kaleb Abbott, OD, MS, FAAO

Kaleb Abbott is an optometrist and assistant professor of ophthalmology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. After graduating from Texas A&M University with a bachelor’s of science in nutrition, he attended The University of Houston College of Optometry for both his doctorate of optometry and master’s of science in physiological optics and vision science where he investigated the intricate relationship between intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells, sleep, melatonin, and refractive error.

At the University of Colorado, he is faculty in both the Dry Eye Clinic and the Center for Ocular Inflammation where he specializes in complex ocular surface disease. He actively participates in clinical trials and conducts research pertaining to dry eye disease. He enjoys treating dry eye disease and ocular pain as he feels that he is truly able to make a difference in his patients’ lives by improving their eye comfort and thus quality of life. He has a special affinity for corneal nerve disorders, especially neuropathic pain, as these patients are oftentimes written off and their pain disregarded. Improving eye pain through both medicine and lifestyle modifications is his passion.

In 2022 he was elected Vice Chair of the Nutrition, Disease Prevention, and Wellness SIG at the American Academy of Optometry, invited to be an advisor to the Academic Medical Center Optometry SIG, and his start-up company (SunSnap Kids) took first place in the inaugural Bright Ideas Pitch Competition. Currently, SunSnap Kids is a finalist for the Optometry Innovation Awards with the winners to be announced at Eyes on 2024. He was also selected for the Flom Leadership Academy through the American Academy of Optometry which he will be attending in 2023-2024.

When not seeing patients, conducting research, or working on SunSnap Kids, Dr. Abbott lectures on ocular surface disease, writes articles for Modern Optometry and Healio, and is a medical reviewer for both The Ocular Surface and Optometry and Vision Science. He resides in Denver, CO with his wife and daughter where they enjoy skiing, hiking, and spending time outdoors.

Joseph J. Pizzimenti, OD, FAAO, FORS, FNAP
Joseph J. Pizzimenti, OD, FAAO, FORS, FNAP

Dr. Joseph J. Pizzimenti received his Doctor of Optometry from the Illinois College of Optometry, and completed a residency in Ocular Disease and Rehabilitative Optometry at the University of Houston. He is a recognized clinician and educator and a Fellow of both the American Academy of Optometry (AAO) and the Optometric Retina Society (ORS), serving as ORS President from 2012-2014.

Dr. Pizzimenti’s areas of clinical research include diabetes, age-related macular degeneration, and vitreomacular adhesion. His scientific articles have appeared in a host of peer-reviewed journals, and he regularly lectures on posterior segment disease. Dr. Pizzimenti was awarded a Fellowship by the World Council of Optometry in 2006, resulting in an appointment to teach and evaluate optometric education programs in Central Europe.

He has been a faculty member at Nova Southeastern University and the University of the Incarnate Word, serving with distinction at both institutions. Dr. Pizzimenti enjoys travel with his wife and grown children and living in central Florida.

Ansel T. Johnson, O.D.
Ansel T. Johnson, O.D.

Dr. Ansel Johnson is the founder and owner of Vision Salon Eye Care Associates in Blue Island, Illinois.  He received his BA in Biology from Illinois Wesleyan University and graduated from the New England College of Optometry. He has completed a post-graduate certificate from the Wharton School of Business Optometry Executive Program.

He is currently an adjunct professor at five optometry school programs. His office services as an externship site for 5 programs as well.  He currently serves on staff at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago, Illinois.

Dr. Johnson’s office is the first and only in the State of Illinois to incorporate a Nationally Certified Diabetes Self-Management Program within an eye care facility.  He is a certified lifestyle coach for the CDC Diabetes Prevention Program.

Dr. Johnson is a national thought leader and industry consultant in eye care.  Concentrating on eye care technologies, glaucoma, and diabetes management he is a national industry speaker.

In June 2020 Dr. Johnson founded and currently serves as CEO of the Health Living With A Vision Foundation.  The 501c3 foundation has a mission to eliminate health and wellness disparities in underserved communities.

Twice listed in Black Enterprise Magazine as one of America’s top 101 African American doctors, He was honored in a White House ceremony as a Head Start success story for it’s 35th Anniversary.

Dr. Johnson for his professional lifetime is committed to making an impact on the eye care and health care of this country.

Scope and Function
  • Serve as the worldwide leaders and experts in nutrition and wellness education for healthcare professionals, the public, and the media with a focus on preserving vision, health and quality of life.
  • Provide unbiased, balanced continuing education through professional symposia.
  • Provide a resource pool of clinically relevant refereed studies that demonstrate the role of safe nutritional support for the management of ocular and systemic disease.
  • Promote lifestyle education to healthcare providers and consumers about nutritional approaches for reducing the likelihood of the development of vision loss and poor health.
  • Influence the inclusion of nutrition and wellness education in the curricula of medical and optometry schools, universities and colleges.
  • Partner with other nutrition and wellness societies, (partnerships) and government agencies that promote healthy nutrition and influence health policy that supports nutrition education.