Research Team

Nisha Acharya, MD, MS

Nisha Acharya is the Director of the Uveitis Service and the Uveitis Fellowship at the F.I. Proctor Foundation. Her clinical expertise is the diagnosis and management of patients with infectious and inflammatory eye diseases.  She is experienced with the latest medical and surgical treatments for uveitis, including treatment with new immunomodulatory drugs and cataract surgery in uveitis patients. Dr. Acharya’s research focuses on the design and implementation of clinical trials to determine the optimal treatment for these conditions. Current projects include clinical trials on infectious corneal ulcers, uveitis-related macular edema, and tuberculous uveitis.

Ariana Austin, MS

Ariana coordinates research on corneal ulcer treatment in South India and on child health in Niger. Her interest in global health developed from working in free clinics in Los Angeles and rural Panama. Before coming to the Proctor Foundation Ariana completed an MS in Global Health Sciences from UCSF, focusing her research on using microfinance interventions to reduce HIV risk behaviors among sex workers in Cambodia. Her background also includes domestic work in community health as well as a BS in Psychobiology and a minor in Spanish from UCLA.

Jessica Brogdon, MPH

Jessica is a coordinator for the MORDOR child mortality studies across Burkina Faso. Some of the studies she currently works on include CHAT, NAITRE, and GAMIN. She is a graduate from Tulane University with a Master in Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Prior to working at Proctor she was a volunteer with Unite for Site in Ghana, which fostered her passion for global health.


Catherine Cook, MPH 

Catherine coordinates the MORDOR trial across the Niger, Tanzania and Malawi sites. Her research background includes organizational development and capacity building for NGOs in Ethiopia as well as strategies for mental healthcare navigation in Boston. Prior to this, she was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Suriname. Catherine earned her MPH from Boston University in International Health with a concentration in Monitoring and Evaluation. Her interest in global health developed while earning her BA in Anthropology from St. Michael’s College in Vermont, particularly as a Student Global AIDS Campaign member and volunteering with Jamaica AIDS Support for Life in Kingston, Jamaica.

Susan Ford, BS, MBA

Susan works part time with the Proctor Foundation. With numbers in her background, Susan helps maintain the financial records of the International group. She handles reimbursements for the team and the paper work and record keeping for other expenditures. Included in her administrative duties, Susan manages the submission of manuscripts for publication as well as the assorted other projects that come up in the office . She is an valuable go-between for guiding new personnel in the University systems. Susan has an MBA from San Francisco University and a BS from Cornell University.

Dionna Wittberg, MPH

Dionna coordinates the SWIFT I/II trial on the impact of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene on trachoma in Ethiopia.  A graduate of Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, she has an MPH in global environmental health. During her time at Emory, Dionna led a research project in Ethiopia to evaluate the sustainability and adoption of the arborloo, a composting latrine. She also received a BA in history and international affairs from George Washington University. 


John Gonzales, MD

Dr. Gonzales's interest involves the diagnosis and management of infectious and non-infectious inflammatory conditions of the eyes (uveitis). Many ocular inflammatory diseases are part of a systemic disorder and require a complete review of one’s health, personalized treatment, and close monitoring. Working as a team with a patient’s rheumatologist, internist, pediatrician, or other subspecialists ensure that his patients receive optimum care.

Andrew Hirst

Andrew Hirst, MS 

Andrew manages and analyzes data for Dr. Acharya’s uveitis studies. He received his MS in Biostatistics from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Prior to grad school, Andrew completed a service year through AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, where he worked with such organizations as Desert AIDS Project and Pioneertown Mountains Preserve among others. His research interests include latent variables, structural equation modeling, and longitudinal data analysis. He also holds a BA in mathematics and music from St. Olaf College.

Jeremy Keenan, MD MPH

Jeremy Keenan is the Director of International Programs at the Proctor Foundation and a Professor in Ophthalmology at UCSF. He is interested in the epidemiology of major causes of blindness in the developing world, as well as the cost-effectiveness of treatments for these eye diseases. Among other work, he is investigating the impact of water, sanitation and hygiene on trachoma in Ethiopia and the effectiveness of competing community-based blindness prevention programs in Nepal. He is also involved in diagnostic studies investigating conventional and novel screening tools for glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy (India, Thailand), and conducts observational epidemiological studies on acanthamoeba keratitis (India, USA) and cytomegalovirus retinitis (Thailand).

Tom Lietman, MD

Tom Lietman is the director of the Proctor Foundation. His research interests include: antibiotics for reduction in mobidity and mortality, trachoma control in Ethiopia, corneal ulcer treatment and prevention in India and Nepal, and mathematical modeling of infectious disease transmission in communities. He believes that with the appropriate strategies, the strains of chalmydia that cause trachoma can be completely eradicated, and that new developments in prevention and treatment of bacterial and fungal corneal ulcers will dramatically reduce blindness. He also believes that mathematical models of infectious disease transmission can be used to predict trachoma and antibiotic resistance.

Jason Melo, MPH

Jason is a data analyst at the Proctor Foundation, working on both the SWIFT trial in Ethiopia and the VIEW trial in Nepal. He received his MPH in Epidemiology and a certificate in Infectious Disease Epidemiology from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Also having been a part of the undergraduate public health program at UCSD and various studies at the International AIDS Society, the New York City Department of Health, UCSD, and UCSF previously, Jason has an extensive background in global health research and a primary interest in the epidemiology of communicable diseases.


Kieran O'Brien, PhD, MPH

Kieran coordinates the Proctor Foundation’s studies on corneal ulcers in Nepal and South India. Her interest in international health developed while living and working in West Africa, particularly in Ghana and Senegal. A graduate of the University of Michigan School of Public Health, Kieran has an MPH in International Health Epidemiology. She also received a BA from the University of Michigan where she studied International Development and minored in French and Francophone Studies.

travis porco

Travis Porco, PhD, MPH

Travis Porco is a mathematical epidemiologist and biostatistician whose interests include drug resistance during trachoma control, ophthalmological clinical trials, evolution of virulence, HIV transmission, tuberculosis control, and control of epidemic disease through contact investigation.  Porco has taught mathematical epidemiology at UC Berkeley’s Center for Infectious Disease Preparedness, and has contributed to Proctor Foundation research projects in Ethiopia, India, and Thailand.


Jennifer Rose-Nussbaumer, MD

Dr. Rose- Nussbaumer is a Cornea fellowship trained Ophthalmologist. In addition to her clinical work, she is an NIH funded clinical researcher. Her current research focus is on corneal ulcer treatment in India and Nepal in collaboration with the Dr. Tom Lietman and Dr. Nisha Acharya. In addition, she is studying corneal transplant outcomes in Ethiopia along with Dr. Jeremy Keenan and Dr. Doug Holsclaw. She is the principle investigator on the Corneal Preservation Time study at UCSF. Her previous vision research in Ophthalmology includes work with the World Health Organization on Trachoma, as well as investigating the ocular manifestations of HIV disease.

John Whitcher, MD, MPH

As the primary ophthalmologist in the SICCA (Sjögren’s International Collaborative Clinical Alliance) Study, Dr. Whitcher has spent the past three years developing and standardizing protocols and calibrating ocular examinations at the lead center at UCSF with the four collaborating centers in Japan, China, Argentina, and Denmark. Two more SICCA collaborating centers in London, England and in Madurai, India are being added to the study. The Sjögren’s Clinic at UCSF also continues to function as a research and diagnostic center for Sjögren’s patients who are not part of the SICCA Study.  He is also involved in corneal ulcer prevention studies in South East Asia and trachoma studies in Ethiopia. 

zhaoxia zhou

Lina Zhong

As a research associate with the Proctor Foundation, Lina works with the trachoma team through laboratory research and performance of data entry. She is working on TANA and PRET studies; she helps to process conjunctival swab samples and maintenance for all studies samples. Lina has a B.S in Computerized Accounting from Guangzhou University in China plus additional PCR skills training at UCSF.

Zhaoxia Zhou

Zhaoxia works as the Data Manager for the trachoma and child mortality studies.  She has used her BS in Biology and 15 years of teaching Biostatistics experience at Guizhou University (People’s Republic of China) plus additional training in Clinical Database Management at UCSF to create a complete sample processing system for collecting accurate laboratory results.  She collaborates with the study coordinators to develop data collection protocol, oversees all study-related databases and generates data for reports and publication.