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Vienna eye doctor turns sights on needs abroad

Alex Melamud, an ophthalmologist from Vienna, recently returned from a 10-day trip to East Africa, where he performed hundreds of surgeries on local residents, as well as on patients who traveled two to three days from neighboring countries and waited longer to be seen.

This was Melamud’s third visit to the Kabgayi Eye Hospital in Rwanda, the first facility in the country to provide free retinal care. Melamud, who is affiliated with The Retina Group of Washington, and the hospital’s single ophthalmologist performed as many as 40 surgeries a day. They treated trauma injuries resulting from machete wounds and animal attacks, retinal detachments, cataracts and advanced cases of diabetic retinopathy.

Many of the patients they treat would lose their sight or have nonfunctioning vision without surgical intervention, Melamud said. He tells how a completely blind elderly man was led into the hospital by his grandchild, and after removal of a cataract, the grandfather was able to see the child for the first time.

Melamud says he does not receive funding or support from health organizations or the Rwandan government for his medical missions. There are believed to be no more than two dozen practicing eye doctors in all of Rwanda.

Melamud has made similar trips to India and South America, providing free diagnostic and surgical services to those in need.

31 FCPS students win National Merit Scholarships

The National Merit Scholarship Corp. has named 31 high school seniors at Fairfax County Public Schools as winners of $2,500 National Merit Scholarships. The students are part of a group of about 2,500 finalists from across the country.

Centreville High School: Connor Mitchell.

Chantilly High School: Julie Estrada.

Herndon High School: Emily Schaal and Tae-Jung Yang.

Langley High School: Nathaniel Speiser, Leah Surratt and Katherine Tan.

Madison High School: Matthew Cohen.

Marshall High School: Annika Dirkse and Stephen Mills.

Oakton High School: Paul Burke, Monica Hanratty, Ajay Mehta and Rhea Singh.

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology: Sreenath Are, Rohan Banerjee, Owen Gray, Abraham Kang, Veronica Lee, Andrea Li, Ivy Ren, Emily Schneider, Martha Shields, Chandan Singh, Wen Sun, Joseph Valery, Victoria Xia and Jennifer Yin.

West Springfield High School: Kelly Giddens.

Woodson High School: Isabella Brahm and Chloe Yun.

Each of the FCPS winners received a scholarship supported by the NMSC’s own funds with the exception of Yun, whose scholarship was underwritten by the UPS Foundation.

Herndon teacher knows her Constitution

The John Marshall Foundation has recognized Cynthia Powers Burgett, an eighth-grade teacher of civics and economics at Rachel Carson Middle School in Herndon, with its Annual Teacher Award.

The $2,500 cash prize and framed certificate were presented at an award ceremony May 1, during the Annual Law Day Celebration luncheon of the Richmond Bar Association at the Omni Richmond Hotel.

Winners are selected on the basis of their demonstrated knowledge of and enthusiasm for the U.S. Constitution as evidenced through activities inside and outside the classroom.

Burgett coaches students in the national “We the People” program. Her team won the Virginia State Competition for middle school students in February. In April, the Rachel Carson team placed third in the National “We the People” Invitational Competition, which took place in Washington, D.C.

Any public or private middle or high school classroom teacher in Virginia who has been teaching for a minimum of five years is eligible for the award.

Two receive Rotary Club’s Seeman award

The Rotary Club of Vienna awarded its 2014 “M. Jane Seeman Service Above Self” award April 23 to Conor Tracy, a Vienna Police Department officer, and Bill Padgett, an emergency management technician with the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department.

The annual service award, which goes to extraordinary individuals within the Town government, was renamed this year in honor of Vienna’s late mayor. Tom Seeman and Linda Jane Colbert, Mayor Seeman’s son and daughter, attended the event in their mother’s honor. Mayor Laurie DiRocco was inducted as an honorary member of the club.

Tracy, in the patrol division, was nominated for his positive attitude and relentless work ethic. “Officer Tracy goes above and beyond his assigned duties, frequently staying late to work cases and assist other officers on his squad,” said Police Chief Jim Morris. Tracy routinely leads his patrol squad in traffic citations and criminal and DWI arrests.

Fire Chief John Morris nominated Padgett for his “infectious enthusiasm.” Through the VVFD’s canteen program, Padgett has provided nourishment to hundreds of firefighters throughout Vienna and Fairfax County during major incidents. He also serves as coordinator for the department’s antique apparatus, including its 1946 Maxim fire engine.

The Vienna Rotary Club presented the Town’s Parks and Recreation Department with $5,000 to support the Town Green Concert Series. The police department received a donation to purchase ballistic vest covers and other equipment, and the fire department received a check to go toward a new ambulance scheduled to arrive in December.

Herndon lawyer puts ‘lids on kids’

It is no secret that wearing a properly fitted bike helmet can help reduce the risk of head injury. A blow to the skull from a fall or crash may result in traumatic brain injury, a medical emergency that can sometimes be fatal.

Doug Landau, a personal injury attorney with the Herndon law firm Abrams Landau Ltd., knows the risks, having worked with clients who have sustained head injuries from falls and accidents. In response, Landau and his firm started the “Helmet a Day” campaign.

The goal is to give away 365 bike helmets – one a day – to needy local school children each year. The firm surpassed its goal in 2012 and 2013, and is on its way to doing so again in 2014.

Last month the Abrams Landau team, accompanied by members of the Herndon Police Department, the George Mason University Bike Club and Herndon Mayor Lisa Merkel, made a presentation at Herndon Elementary School. Using models of skulls and brains, as well as helmets damaged in crashes, Landau talked about the importance of head protection.

“If we can save one child from brain injury, it will be worth our endeavors,” said Landau, who refers to his program as “putting lids on kids.”

Each student was fitted with a brand-new helmet and given a carry bag containing information on TBI and helmet safety. If a student outgrows her helmet, or if it gets damaged in a crash, Abrams Landau will replace it with a new one.

Helmet donations are underwritten by Abrams Landau Ltd. and the Virginia Trial Lawyers Foundation.