2020 OWL Awards Finalists | OWL

2020 OWL Awards Finalists

Visionary Leader Award

OWL’s Visionary Award honors an individual who has paved the way for diversity in their field through significant achievement. Nominees should have demonstrated leadership in their field through their careers.


Frank W. Bowden III, MD, FACS
Nominee Statement

Frank Bowden is the founder and president of Bowden Eye & Associates in Jacksonville, FL; owner and medical director of the Eye Surgery Center of North Florida; and co-founder of Dry Eye University and Dry Eye Access.  His “super power” in leading his practice has always been his team approach, working closely with his CEO, techs, staff and optometrists—and treating each one as unique and valuable. While Dr. Bowden has been a clinical pioneer and a scholar, he also has a great sense of humor.  When he turns on the fun, no one can resist wanting to join the effort, according to his nominator.

Dr. Bowden has the distinction of being the first African American to complete an ophthalmology residency in the U. S. Navy and the second African American to complete a corneal and external disease fellowship at Will’s Eye Hospital.  During a 12-year military career, he was awarded the U.S. Navy Commendation Medal in 1982 and the U.S. Navy Achievement Medal in 1987.

Dr. Bowden was one of the first ophthalmologists in the country outside of an academic center to fully embrace dry eye treatment. Starting when there were few available tools, Dr. Bowden “MacGyvered” solutions that previously did not exist – developing his own diagnostic algorithms, treatment protocols and dry eye-centric practice flow. As an industry developed around dry eye care, he has helped to shape and inform it.

Magda Michna, PhD
Nominee Statement

Magda Michna is the Chief Global Clinical and Regulatory Affairs Officer for AcuFocus, and has previously held senior scientific and clinical development roles at Alcon, Johnson & Johnson Vision, and Presbia.  She has dedicated her career to research in human vision, which has spanned both academic research as well as the pursuit of the development of novel technologies in the ophthalmic industry in the United States and globally. 

Dr. Michna, who holds a PhD in optical physics, is inspired by helping young women enter STEM programs and mentoring women in STEM careers. She was instrumental in the development of programs with the Australian Institute of Physics to support women in physical sciences, and has served as mentor for many young women in industry. She co-chairs the Southern California OWL Chapter.

As a former refugee who has lived, studied and worked in several different countries, she has impressed colleagues with her ability to overcome challenges and achieve her goals.  She is admired for her leadership, resilience, courage, and integrity.  Her colleagues say that she has an “uncompromising adherence to strong ethical principles and values.”

Dee Stephenson, MD, FACS
Nominee Statement

Dee Stephenson is the founder and director of Stephenson Eye Associates in Venice, FL. She began her career during a time when there were few female ophthalmologists and fewer still in leadership—something she has worked to change.  

Dr. Stephenson helps run the CEDARS/ASPENS mentorship program and is a mentor for residents with the Bausch + Lomb mentorship program; she has been instrumental in creating a path to the podium for many young female ophthalmologists. She helps to educate her colleagues around the world as head of the education committee for the Global Education & Research Society of Ophthalmology (GERSO) and through extensive publications, conference presentations, and her work with industry to drive innovation.

Dr. Stephenson is a recognized leader in the field of ophthalmology.  She has received the American Academy of Ophthalmology achievement award, the Castle Connolly Exceptional Women in Medicine, Outstanding Female Leader in Ophthalmology, and the Melvin Jones Lions Humanitarian award (twice!). She is a founding member of AECOS and CEDARS/ASPENS. She is the immediate past president of the American College of Eye Surgeons (ACES) and president of the American Board of Eye Surgery (ABES).


Catalyst Award

OWL’s Catalyst Award honors an individual who has contributed significantly to helping others advance their career in eye care. Nominees should have demonstrated leadership in supporting the advancement of diversity. (For example: mentoring/sponsorship of promising individuals; diversity advocacy; or creating a culture of equality).


Renee Bovelle, MD, MS
Nominee Statement

Renee Bovelle is the owner and Medical Director of Envision Eye & Laser Center in Glenn Dale, MD, and assistant professor of ophthalmology at Howard University.  She has significantly contributed to advancing others through mentorship and advocacy by supporting three key concepts: Diversity, leadership and innovation.  She personally embodies these concepts, as well as attesting to their importance in medicine and leadership, according to one of her nominators. In addition to her busy practice, Dr. Bovelle educates medical students, residents, and physicians locally and nationally, and has been an advocate for diversity and inclusion in the ophthalmic space. 

Dr. Bovelle has held a number of leadership positions, incoming President of the Maryland Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons (MSEPS) and councilor to the AAO.  She is a board member of OWL, and recently helped to organize and chair the OWL webinar series on race in ophthalmology. With a Master’s degree in cybersecurity strategy & information management, Dr. Bovelle is actively involved in devising policies and practices that protect critical health information. In every role, Dr. Bovelle has worked towards creating a culture of equality.

Abigail Markward
Nominee Statement

Abby Markward has 20 years of experience in the ophthalmic industry.  She is currently the National Director of Business Development for PentaVision, an ophthalmic publishing company.  She has extensive experience in advertising, marketing and product management, working for companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Bausch + Lomb. 

Ms. Markward volunteers for SightLife, a non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating corneal blindness worldwide.  On behalf of SightLife, she traveled to Nepal for the Women Advocates’ Trip to raise awareness of blindness prevention.  She is also a dedicated OWL volunteer, serving on the program committee since 2017 and coordinating content and speakers for OWL’s national signature events. She is a board member and the incoming OWL president.

Ms. Markward has worked throughout her career to be a mentor and to enhance diversity.  In nominating her, a colleague emphasized that “She is the ultimate catalyst, always looking for opportunities to connect people across our industry to add value and establish connectivity—and does so with ease and grace.”

Denise McEachern, EJD, FRAPS
Nominee Statement

Denise McEachern is a recognized global regulatory expert with 40 years of experience in the medical device, diagnostics and pharmaceutical industry, including 30 years in ophthalmology. She is currently the Global Head of Regulatory Affairs for STAAR Surgical and has previously served on executive management teams for Bausch + Lomb, LifeScan, and Johnson & Johnson.  Her identification, development, and mentoring of key talent has resulted in strong teams able to address emerging issues and deliver approvals of new and innovative products.

Colleagues say that Ms. McEachern has always been a champion for diversity, personally mentoring minority women and helping them develop in their careers.  She is recognized as a great teacher, an effective leader, and one who has been able to successfully take on great challenges. 

But even beyond her years of dedication and commitment to the ophthalmic industry, she exhibits a compassion for others that is rarely seen in the business world, according to a nominator, who recalls her support and advocacy for an employee with brain cancer, helping him to maintain his health insurance and a semblance of normalcy as he battled the disease.  “She helped us understand the importance of lifting each other up when we need it the most,” said her nominator.  “She understands that we are not just employees—but people she truly cares for.”

Rising Star Award

OWL’s Rising Star Award honors an individual who is an emerging leader in the ophthalmic space. These award finalists are in their early or mid-careers and demonstrate high potential for making an impact in ophthalmology.


Kristen Brotherson
Nominee Statement

Kristen Brotherson is the Vice President of Marketing for Alcon’s US Surgical business. As a 15-year Alcon veteran, she has held roles in sales, training and marketing with Alcon Surgical’s US and Global organizations. Her nominator describes her as someone who “Thinks big, while also thinking responsibly.” She helped lead Alcon’s branding shift during the height of the pandemic, encouraging marketing efforts that focused on support for doctors and patients rather than on advertising products and equipment.

Throughout her career, Ms. Brotherson has always focused on building dynamic, effective teams. She has a particular passion for career development and diversity and inclusion in the workplace.  She currently serves as a member of Alcon’s North America Diversity Council and other Alcon employee groups that focus on supporting working parents, racial equality and women in the workplace.  She also volunteers with a children’s autism organization in Ft. Worth, TX.

Ranna Jaraha
Nominee Statement

Ranna Jaraha is the Director of New Media at Bryn Mawr Communications (BMC), where she works closely with leading physicians and industry leaders on creating digital programs such as video series, podcasts, and live surgery programs, as well as hosting the weekly news broadcast, EyewireTV. In this role, she has had the opportunity to interview high-level industry executives and produce large-scale educational programs, with a level of confidence and ease that is unusual in someone so early in their career.

Ms. Jaraha has the energy, curiosity and intelligence to drive her to high achievements within the eyecare industry, according to a nominator.  As a first-generation Iranian-American, “She recognizes opportunities to learn and grow and steps right up to connect with others.”  Ms. Jaraha is a member of the first class of OWL Fellows. She was eager to participate in the program as she believes in the empowerment that comes through mentorship. She also contributes her time and talent to the OWL Marketing Outreach committee, where she is described as hardworking, compassionate, and someone who consistently brings new ideas and energy to the table.

Julie Schallhorn, MD, MS
Nominee Statement

Julie Schallhorn is an Associate Professor of Ophthalmology and Associate Residency Program Director at the University of California, San Francisco, where she specializes in corneal and refractive surgery.  Dr. Schallhorn was part of a movement to increase the diversity and gender balance of the UCSF grand rounds. She is an active member of OWL, WIO, and the ASCRS Young Eye Surgeons Committee and has been an advocate for the promotion of women in both clinical and business settings.

Dr. Schallhorn is truly a rising star in ophthalmology.  She is sought after by peers for her clinical care acumen, by industry for her critical-thinking guidance, and by residents for her superlative teaching ability.   Her work is greatly appreciated by organized ophthalmology, as evidenced by numerous requests to participate in local and international symposia, committee memberships and leadership roles.  Her many peer-review publications are often cited as vital to the advancement of ophthalmology. 

Dr. Schallhorn is described by one of her nominators as being “incredibly approachable” and “a kind and thoughtful person who uplifts and amplifies others.”  Others noted that she is always thinking about how she can improve access to eye care for all.

Voting Closed.

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