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VHRN Student Committee

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The Student Committee (StC) comprises a broad spectrum of trainees: summer interns, graduate students (2e and 3e cycle), medical students, residents and postdoctoral fellows. Our student members must be under the supervision of a researcher who is a regular or associate member of the Network.

The executive team of the StC is devoted to organize scientific and educational events, to advocate for student members, and to facilitate their career development.

The executive team consists of the following members: the two (2)Presidents, seven (7) Vice-Presidents (VP) (who also serves as Institutional Representatives [iRep] of their home school), and iReps.

The Presidents of the StC: Deborah Villafranca-Baughman (UdeM) & Sonia Anchouche (U McGill)

  • Serves as the direct link with the Board of Direction and participates in board meetings
  • Coordinates VHRN activities
  • Coordinates a team of VPs and iReps

VP Marketing: Anne Xuan-Lan Nguyen (U McGill)

  • Social media management, including the committee’s Facebook page / Instagram / Twitter
  • Publicizing events organized by the student committee

VP Communications: Mélanie Hébert (U Laval), Michèle MacLean (UdeM)

  • Write, create, and update marketing tools such as posters, application notes, presentations, website, etc
  • Contribute to the drafting of editorials on the RRSV to reach a broad academic readership across Canada

VP LogisticsRabah Dabouz (U McGill), Sergio Crespo-Garcia (UdeM)

  • Management of the organization of scientific events, scientific cafe, etc
  • Establishment of the team of volunteers during the annual network day, summer school

VP Community outreach: Jiaru Liu (UdeM), Sheetal Pundir (U McGill)

  • Outreach and Community Engagement: connecting graduate students with established scientists and communication professionals in sharing science with public audiences
  • Student mentorship

iRep serves as a link between the StC, the Network and schools.

StC members will have the opportunity to:

  • participate in board meetings
  • participate in the promotion of scientific discoveries of the network via the website
  • participate in the organization of the annual meeting
  • interact with their student peers

Note that the StC is not an independent committee and shall report to the Board of Directors on the same basis as other VHRN committees. Decisions made by the StC need to be approved by the Board of Directors. The StC meetings should have an agenda which needs to be reported to the Board of Directors. The StC has the responsibility to follow through their objectives and activities.

Composition of the VHRN Sudent Committee  


The Presidents

         Deborah Villafranca-Baughman, MSc                                      Sonia Anchouche

                 Deborah Villafranca Baughman                             Sonia-Anchouche

Deborah Villafranca-Baughman is a third-year Ph.D. candidate in the neuroscience program at the Université de Montréal (UdeM) under the supervision of Prof. Adriana Di Polo. Deborah obtained her B.Sc. degree in Molecular Biotechnology at the University of Barcelona and completed her undergraduate thesis at the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research (McGill U., Montreal, Quebec). She obtained her M.Sc. degree from UdeM (Di Polo lab) prior to starting her doctoral work, which focuses on the elucidation of mechanisms leading to pericyte dysfunction in optic neuropathies. She recently established a unique two-photon laser scanning microscopy setup that yields high-resolution images of the retina in living animals. Deborah has published impactful scientific papers, including recent articles in Nature (2020, IF 42.78) and Acta Neuropathol Commun (2019, IF 5.93). Deborah has extensive experience organizing, managing, and leading people. She is the co-president of the Vision Health Research Network (VHRN) student committee of Quebec. Deborah is a student advisor for the Department of Neuroscience at UdeM, a position that involves guiding students towards their choice of the program according to their personality traits, fields of interest, and professional ambitions. She is part of the First VHRN International Summer School organizing committee on vision restoration (2021).

Deborah’s leadership goals are: i) to provide stimulating scientific activities that facilitate learning, ii) to promote networking opportunities for VHRN students, iii) to facilitate excellence in vision research in Quebec, Canada, and the world, and iv) to foster interactions that stimulate, enrich, and encourage VHRN students to succeed

Sonia Anchouche grew up in Montreal and is currently a fourth-year medical student at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. During her medical school training, she pursued a predoctoral research fellowship in ocular immunology and anterior segment pathology and hopes to continue pursuing bench-to-bedside research after she graduates.

As co-president of the VHRN Student Committee, she aims to serve as an advocate for trainees within the VHRN and to create new opportunities for students at all levels to get involved in vision science research across Quebec.

Institutional Representatives (iRep) 

        VP Marketing                                  VP Communications
     Image1     Image7

  Anne Xuan-Lan Nguyen                Mélanie Hébert                              Michèle MacLean

  MD Student                                       MD Resident                                    Ph.D. Student
Université de McGill                       Université Laval                                Université de Montrél

VP Logistic                                                        VP Community outreach

Image3     Image6     Image2     Image5

       Sergio Crespo-Garcia              Rabah Dabouz                              Jiaru Liu                                         Sheetal Pundir

      Postdoctoral Fellow, HMR           Ph.D. Student                              MD Resident                                 MD Student
Université de Montréal                    Université de McGill                   Université de McGill                    Université de McGill



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  • Title: « The Vision Health Research Network and its commitment to the scholarly development of its trainees »
  • Authors: Sonia Anchouche, Jiaru Liu, Sara Vucetic, Kim Santerre et Tianwei E. Zhou
  • Journal: Clinical in Investigative Medicine (CIM)
  • Publication Date: December 2019


  • Title: « Academic Conferencing Reimagined in the COVID-19 Era: The Vision Health Research Network Experience »
  • Authors: Jiaru Liu, Anne Xuan-Lan Nguyen, Sheetal Pundir, Sergio Crespo-Garcia, Mélanie Hébert, Deborah Villafranca-Baughman and Sonia Anchouche
  • Journal: Clinical in Investigative Medicine (CIM)
  • Publication Date: To come in 2021

⇒  To come


  • Title: Eye to Eye on Tissue Engineering
  • Invited Speakers: May Griffith, PhD and Stéphanie Proulx, PhD
  • Date: October 8th, 2019, 6h30 PM
  • Place: Crew Collective δ Café
  • The café scientifique will be presented in both languages (french/english)

Link to the conference

  • Title: Gene Therapy in Ophthalmology
  • Guest Speakers: Cynthia Qian, MD, FRCSC, DABO and Sarah Chorfi, MD, FRCSC
  • Date: November 4th 2021, 6h00 PM
  • Place: PicNic Velocafe
  • The café scientifique will be presented in both languages (french/english)

Link to the conference


  • Title: Du labo au grand public
  • Invited Speaker: Carine Monat, PhD, science journalist (Unpointcinq, Québec Science, AMI-télé)
  • Date: February 1st 2019, 10h00 to 11h30 AM
  • Place: Auditorium Jacques Genest, Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM)
  • The conference has been presented in French and is available on Facebook.

⇒ Link to the conference


  • To come 2021-2022

PIZZA-LUNCH with mentors

  • To come 2021-2022