The team at the Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative seeks to preserve and restore vision in people with diabetes.
S. Robert Levine, MD
Concept Creator and Chair of the Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative
Executive Producer of Being Mary Tyler Moore
Dr. Levine, alongside his wife, Mary Tyler Moore, has been a long-standing diabetes research advocate. As JDRF’s International Chairman from 1984-2017, Mary used her public recognition, personal experience with type 1 diabetes (T1D) and grace to support JDRF’s research and advocacy programs and offer hope to T1D families. Dr. Levine played an instrumental role within JDRF as a member of its International Board and Board Committees by helping transform its strategy and operations as they experienced rapid growth and expanding influence. Dr. Levine led initiatives that built a grass-roots health research advocacy program that is arguably one of the most effective in modern US history. He helped develop the strategy and processes to manage a JDRF research budget that grew from $10-12 million per year to over $100 million per year navigating the transition from small-scale bench research to large-scale Research Center and Mission-driven initiatives. Through his guidance, JDRF expanded to support clinical trials targeting the translation of scientific advances into therapeutic benefits for people with diabetes.
Dr. Levine has led the development of the “Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative” as a way to honor his wife -- who suffered from vision stealing diabetic retinal disease -- and help make her dream of a world without vision loss from diabetes a reality.
Dr. Levine is an executive producer on the HBO documentary Being Mary Tyler Moore. He provided the filmmakers unprecedented access to Mary’s life and estate, loved ones, colleagues, and friends. Being Mary Tyler Moore explores Mary’s personal and professional journey as an iconic star, businesswoman, and advocate. Through the telling of her life story, this documentary film shows how Mary revolutionized the portrayal of women in the media and empowered generations of women from all races and economic backgrounds to dream big, work hard, and make it on their own.
Dr. Levine graduated summa cum laude from Loyola-Stritch Medical School in 1979 and completed his specialty training in Internal Medicine and Cardiovascular Disease at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. He was the founding Director of Mt. Sinai’s Cardiac Health & Rehab Program.
Thomas W. Gardner, MD, MS
Co-Scientific Director, Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative
Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Professor of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, Professor of Internal Medicine, Medical School, Michigan Medicine
Principal Investigator, JDRF Center of Excellence at the University of Michigan
Dr. Gardner works to determine how diabetes impairs vision and how vision can be restored in persons with diabetic retinal disease. He is scientific co-director of the Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative, and Professor of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, Molecular & Integrative Physiology and Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan. He also works to integrate patient care, teaching and research in a clinical department and promotes the development of young clinician-scientists. Dr. Gardner’s work is inspired by his patients with diabetes, including his two brothers, Tim and Ted, who both have type 1 diabetes.
Dr. Gardner received his medical degree from Jefferson Medical College, did his residency in Ophthalmology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and completed a fellowship in Vitreo-Retinal Diseases and Surgery at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, University of Miami. He holds Board Certification from the American Board of Ophthalmology.
Jennifer K. Sun, MD, MPH
Co-Scientific Director, Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative
Associate Professor, Harvard Dept. of Ophthalmology
Senior Investigator, Research Division, Joslin Diabetes Center (JDC)
Chief, Center for Clinical Eye Research and Trials, Beetham Eye Institute, JDC
Chair, Diabetes Initiatives, DRCR Retina Network
Dr. Jennifer Sun graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, and completed ophthalmology residency and a vitreoretinal surgical fellowship at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. From 2005-2009 she was the first program participant in the Harvard Vision Clinical Scientist K12 program and received a Masters in Public Health in 2007 at the Harvard School of Public Health. Since 2005, she has served as Chief of the Center for Clinical Eye Research and Trials of the Beetham Eye Institute, Joslin Diabetes Center. She is a Senior Investigator in the Vascular Cell Biology Section of the Joslin.
Dr. Sun is Chair for Diabetes Initiatives of the DRCR Retina Network, a National Institutes of Health-sponsored collaborative network of retina sites performing clinical research in diabetic eye disease and other retinal diseases. This prestigious network has been cited 3 times in the US Congressional Record for its impactful clinical trials that have shaped the current standard of care for diabetic eye disease.
Previously, she served as the Network’s nationwide Protocol Working Investigator from 2010-2017 as well as a Network Vice Chair from 2012-2014, and Chair-Elect in 2017. Dr. Sun has been nationwide Protocol Chair of three DRCR.net studies. Dr. Sun serves as an Associate Editor for Diabetes and as the Clinical Challenges Editor for JAMA Ophthalmology. She received the 2008 ARVO/Alcon Early Career Clinician-Scientist Research Award, the 2016 RPB Physician-Scientist Award, the 2018 JDRF Mary Tyler Moore and S. Robert Levine, M.D., Excellence in Clinical Research Award, the 2021 Macula Society Young Investigator Award, and has delivered named lectures including the 2017 Wilmer Eye Institute Joseph Smiddy Lecture (Johns Hopkins), 2018 Morton Goldberg Lecture (University of Illinois at Chicago) and the 2022 UK Optic Lecture for the Royal College of Ophthalmologists.
Patrice E. Fort, PhD, MS
Director, Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative Biorepository and Resource Center
Associate Professor, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Michigan Medicine
Associate Professor, Molecular & Integrative Physiology, Michigan Medicine
Dr. Fort is a trained neuroscientist focusing on the neuroretina and the neuro-glial interaction. Dr Fort did his undergraduate studies at the Claude Bernard University in Lyon (France) before a master’s degree in neuroscience and a Doctorate in Living Sciences from the Louis Pasteur University in Strasbourg (France) with Dr. Alvaro Rendon and Dr. Jose Sahel at the Vision Institute in Paris (France). During his Ph.D., he uncovered unknown key roles of one of the dystrophin isoforms called Dp71, one as a key player in the regulation of retinal homeostasis by Müller glial cells, and the other as a critical protein for maintenance of lens transparency.
Following his Ph.D., Dr. Fort pursued is training at the Penn State University (Hershey, PA) where he continued to gain knowledge of retinal physiology and how it is affected by metabolic and neurodegenerative diseases. As he joined the laboratory of Dr. Gardner for his postdoctoral fellowship, he started studying how diabetes affects retinal metabolism and specifically, protein synthesis. This led to the identification of novel mechanisms of regulation of protein synthesis, specific to the retina and different from other insulin-sensitive tissues. During this time, he also identified previously unknown proteome changes, including effects on intrinsic protective mechanisms critical for cellular survival, using proteomic-based discovery approaches. Dr. Fort was recruited by the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center in 2010, where he focuses on the function and regulation of these intrinsic protective mechanisms in acute and chronic retinal neurodegenerative disorders. Dr. Fort later joined the program of Cellular and Molecular Biology (CMB) as well as the department of molecular and Integrative Physiology (MIP) and the Neuroscience graduate program (NGP) of the University of Michigan in which he participates in recruitment and training of graduate students.
Dorene Markel, MS, MHSA
Managing Director, Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative
Assistant Research Scientist (Active Emeritus), Department of Learning Health Sciences, Michigan Medicine
Ms. Markel serves as Managing Director of the Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative. She brings extensive experience to this role from decades of leadership service to the University of Michigan (UM), with specialized expertise in managing clinical research and diabetes initiatives. In 1990 she worked with Dr. Francis Collins to create the NIH-funded University of Michigan Human Genome Center and was the Director of the Center’s Human Studies Core. In 1995 she became the Administrative Director of the NIH-funded UM General Clinical Research Center (GCRC), in 2001 she was the founding Administrative Director of the Center for the Advancement of Clinical Research (CACR), in 2006 she was appointed the first Director for Clinical and Translational Research for the Medical School, and also became the founding Administrative Director of the NIH-funded Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research (MICHR). In 2008 she became the first Director of the Brehm Center for Diabetes Research and manager of the Brehm Coalition, in 2019 the founding Managing Director of M-Diabetes, and in 2020 the founding Managing Director of the Elizabeth Weiser Caswell Diabetes Institute.
Ms. Markel recently retired from the university and retains an active emeritus faculty position in the Department of Learning Health Sciences. She also continues her work in ethical and regulatory issues in human research, utilizing extensive past service as a Michigan Medicine IRB member. Ms. Markel received her B.S. (1981) from Michigan Technological University in Biological Sciences, her M.S. (1983) from the University of Michigan Medical School, Department of Human Genetics, specializing in Genetic Counseling; and her M.H.S.A (Health Services Administration, 1991) degree from the University of Michigan School of Public Health, Department of Health Management and Policy.
Project Manager, Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative, Caswell Diabetes Institute, and Metabolism, Endocrinology & Diabetes (MEND) Division, Michigan Medicine; diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 22 months
Chris serves as the lead project manager for the Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative. In this role, Chris is responsible for overseeing the development and implementation of the science, marketing and fund development of the MTMVI. In his role for the Caswell Diabetes Institute at the University of Michigan and Metabolism, Endocrinology and Diabetes Division at the University of Michigan, Chris helps to develop and implement new projects in the diabetes and endocrinology fields which help streamline treatment process, improve patient care and outcomes while optimizing the patient experience.
Chris brings extensive experience to these roles after serving as a project manager in high profile programs during 8 years of Federal Service. Prior to his current role, Chris held the position of Program Analyst for the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) program at the United States Coast Guard. During his service Chris helped lead the program to the Meritorious Team Commendation and The Gary E. Carter Award for Acquisition Excellence (Major Acquisition Program of the Year) awards. Prior to the Coast Guard, Chris held a project manager position at the Office of Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education. Chris received his Bachelors of Business Administration in Marketing/Management with a minor in Economics from Northwood University.
Chris was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at 22 months old. Passionate about living life to the fullest and preventing complications, Chris is excited to lead the MTM Vision Initiative to the goal of preventing and restoring vision loss caused by DRD.
Volunteer Chair, Lay Advisory Committee
Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative
Carol Oxenreiter is a dedicated JDRF volunteer who is currently the Vice President of the Directors Emeritus. She is the Chair of the Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative Lay Advisory Committee, and a member of their Steering Committee. Carol is also a member of the JDRF Global Mission Board. In addition, she is an ambassador for nPoD. On the local level, Carol has served the Western Pennsylvania Chapter and the Georgia/South Carolina Chapter in many roles. Carol served on the International Board of Directors from 2010 until 2016 and served as Chair of the Research Committee. Carol was awarded the Jim Tyree Chairman's Choice Award in 2016.
A graduate of Boston College, Carol lives in Hilton Head, SC, with her husband, John. They have four children: John, Katherine, Monica, and Michael. She originally became involved with JDRF when her daughter, Monica, was diagnosed at 13 months of age. Three years later, the goal to find a cure became even more crucial when her son, John, was diagnosed at the age of eight.
Volunteer Chair, Marketing and Communications Committee
Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative
Red Maxwell is a serial entrepreneur and technology executive with over 3 decades experience in brand building. Most recently, Mr. Maxwell served as Chief Marketing Officer for Bigfoot Biomedical, a company seeking to reduce the burden of insulin-requiring diabetes through data, connectivity, automation, and artificial intelligence. Like many of his Bigfoot colleagues, he has personal family connections to T1D and has served the diabetes community as an International Board Member and Chancellor/ Director Emeritus of JDRF.
Prior to Bigfoot, Red Maxwell was CMO for AvidXchange and the SilkRoad Equity family of companies. As President and founder of two branding agencies, Red developed major brand initiatives for Hanes, Wrangler, Clear Channel, McGraw-Hill and Tiffany & Co. Mr. Maxwell began his career in the NY fashion industry where he built the advertising design department at Polo Ralph Lauren.
Mr. Maxwell received his B.S. in Biology from Tufts University. He lectures at the Wake Forest University School of Business,and has served on its Executive Board. Mr. Maxwell was a contributing author to The Wall Street Journal Business Bestseller, The Big Moo.
Lisa Fishbone Wallack
Volunteer Leader, JDRF
Lisa Fishbone Wallack is a long-time volunteer leader at JDRF, first getting involved when her parents Marilyn and Gerald Fishbone were among the founders of JDRF (then known as “JDF”) after her brother Scott was diagnosed with T1D in 1970 at the age of 18 months, and then increasing her involvement when her son Harris was diagnosed in 2001 at the age of 5. Locally, Lisa has served as President of JDRF’s Greater New England Chapter Board and she remains active with the chapter. Nationally, she is a member of JDRF’s International Board of Directors (“IBOD”) and serves as Vice Chair of JDRF’s Talent and Compensation Committee and as a member of JDRF’s Funding Committee. She is a past Vice Chair of JDRF’s IBOD and has served as chair of its Nominating and Governance Committee. Lisa and her husband Neil are proud to be leadership donors to JDRF as well as donors to JDRF’s T1D Fund. Lisa is a litigation attorney by training and now works as a professional volunteer at numerous community organizations, often in a role managing major gift campaigns.
Lisa graduated with a B.A. in The Biological Basis of Behavior from the University of Pennsylvania and with a J.D., summa cum laude, from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.