Eye Care International

Board of Directors

The Board of Directors is a group of volunteers who help to supervise the activities of Eye Care International, including making decisions about our organizational mission and upcoming in-country missions.

Karen Valaitis
President

Karen is currently a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Health Administration program at the University of West Florida in Pensacola, Florida. Prior to teaching, Karen spent over 20 years working in healthcare at organizations such as the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and The Ohio State University Medical Center. Karen made her first trip to El Salvador with Eye Care International in 2005 after having a conversation with volunteer and previous coordinator, Esther Burton. She joined the Board of Directors in 2015 and continues to be a passionate member of the team.

John Novak
Vice-President

Dr. John Novak is an optometrist who has a private practice in the Cleveland area. He graduated from The Ohio State University, completed a hospital-based residency at the Cleveland VA and gained additional experience with the U.S. Public Health Service working on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona. Dr. Novak first participated in a medical mission trip with the Student Volunteers for Optometric Services to Humanity with a trip to the Dominican Republic in 2004 as a student. He first became involved with the amazing people of El Salvador through an immersion trip with St. Joseph's Church (Strongsville, OH) and their sister parish partnership in 2008. This blossomed into him becoming the head of that committee and annual trips coordinated with Epilogos Charities, Inc. He was first invited in 2013 by fellow Lions Club, ECI board member and Cleveland-area optometrist, Jennifer McNamara, after learning of the natural fit with Eye Care International. Since then Dr. Novak has volunteered annually and become more involved with the planning process and board. He loves the opportunity to visit with the people in El Salvador every year and looks forward to the opportunity of providing sustainable eye care.

Sue Daniels
Secretary

Sue Daniels, RN-BC, is a clinical informaticist with Bon Secours Mercy Health who works from her home outside of Cleveland, OH. The role blends Sue’s hands-on nursing background with leadership and software building experience to support compliant patient care documentation in Epic electronic medical record. In the summer of 2010, Sue sorted, washed and sanitized donated eyeglasses and sunglasses in a Stow, OH barn with long-time friends, Ann and Darrell Holland, and other ECI members. They told inspiring stories about their work in El Salvador while ensuring each pair was in nearly-new condition for patients. She couldn’t wait to board a plane the following winter to care for the underserved people in and around La Libertad, ES. That year and each year since, Sue has been a part of the surgical team as circulating and sterilization nurse. Eager to serve where needed, Sue has also dispensed reading glasses, pre-screened patients in rural villages, assessed near and distance acuity, and is the current Secretary to the Board of Directors.

John Bowen
Treasurer

John Bowen has been a volunteer with Eye Care since 2008.  It recent years he has worked in the section that dispenses prescription eyeglasses.  For 28 years he served as an economic officer in the U.S. Foreign Service, including assignments in Colombia and Brazil as well as Europe and Africa.  He has been the treasurer of Eye Care International since 2010.  He has enjoyed working with the other volunteers and getting to know the people and places of El Salvador.

Bob Helwig
Medical Director
Bert Ungricht
Surgical Director
Sherry Clausing
Surgical Coordinator

Sherry Clausing is a retired surgical nurse. She had been doing medical mission work in the Ukraine with the non-profit Sharing Americas Resources Abroad (SARA) a United Christ of Christ (UCC) supported organization. It was in the UCC newsletter that she first read about Eye Care international, upon further investigation Sherry realized that she could put her surgical knowledge to work to help the people of El Salvador. Sherry has served as the surgery coordinator for several years and is honored to be able to help the people of El Salvador.

Tad MacDonnell
Program Director

Tad MacDonnell is retired real estate finance professional. His experiences include working for a title insurance company, banks and mortgage companies, and co-ownership of a mortgage company. His last position was senior managing director of a large national residential real estate finance company where he originated, structured and managed the capitalization of large homebuilding projects and ventures. Tad first participated on an Eye Care mission in 2010 and in 2014 assumed the position of Program Coordinator for Eye Care International.

Susan Barnish
Board Member

Susan Barnish is currently the Programs Director at COAR Peace Mission, in Cleveland, Ohio, a non-profit organization that manages a foster care home for children in El Salvador. Susan spent four years volunteering at a Catholic school in rural Chalatenango, El Salvador, before joining COAR. It was during her first year in Chalatenango that she got roped into serving as an interpreter for Eye Care during pre-check week. When Eye Care returned to Chalatenango three years later, Susan served as an in-country liaison, helping to coordinate the mission. She joined the Board of Directors in 2019 and believes that Eye Care International can be a force for positive social change in El Salvador, in addition to providing vision-related services.

Ann Holland
Board Member

Ann is an educator who spent most of her time in urban districts including Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, and Elyria. She was Director of Research and Development for Cleveland Public Schools and the Elyria Schools. After retiring she worked as an evaluator for a number of agencies and school districts. She believes education is important and can lead to meaningful opportunities for underserved individuals and communities. She first became involved in El Salvador through the Cleveland Catholic Diocese Mission Team after the nuns were killed in 1980. She has been involved with Eye Care International for over 20 years. She believes that Eye Care International could be a positive influence in providing opportunities for growth and jobs in El Salvador and health care in communities served.

Jennifer McNamara
Board Member

Jennifer McNamara is a practicing optometrist at NOMS Eyecare in Avon Lake, Ohio. She strongly believes in Ghandi's motto that "We must be the change we wish to see in the world." This prompted her to participate in two eyecare missions to Nicaragua and Ecuador when she was in optometry school. After those experiences, she was hooked. An attending physician recommended her to the Eye Care International organization and she has been volunteering on eyecare missions with them for the past eleven years. Jennifer performs eye examinations and post-operative surgical care as well as prescribes glasses and medications to the underserved in El Salvador. She has served on the Board of Directors for Eye Care International for nearly five years now and looks forward to continuing to provide vision care for the population in El Salvador.

Bob Means
Board Member

Bob Means worked with an ophthalmologist for 26 years and had his own practice for 10 years. He was certified as a fellow in the Contact Lens Society of America and served on their board of directors. He was also certified with the NCLE and ABO. Bob has been on the board of directors since 2005 and has been doing Eye Care Missions since 2000.

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