Our Researchers and Clinicians

Dr. Robert Koenekoop, M.D., PhD, FARVO

Director of Laboratory for Retinal Genetics and Therapeutics, Chief Pediatric Ophthalmologist

Dr. Robert Koenekoop (Rob) was born in Stockholm Sweden, but went to High school and the University of Utrecht in The Netherlands. After Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Biology, Vegetation Science and Population Biology, a Fulbright fellowship from Amsterdam brought him to the USA for a PhD in Molecular Biology. His wife then brought him to Quebec, Canada and Medical school studies at the University of Toronto and McGill University followed. He saw the light in the retina clinic and finished his residency in Ophthalmology at McGill and his Ocular Genetics and Paediatric Ophthalmology Fellowships at Johns Hopkins University. For the past 25 years he has devoted his research career to discovering new retinal genes for childhood blindness due to retinal degenerations, and more recently in testing the safety and efficacy of new therapies for these same diseases, with some very important early successes. He has a broad background in human clinical trials and drug development, molecular genetics, clinical and paediatric ophthalmology, retinal degenerations, childhood blindness research and data analyses. In the past few years, in international collaborations, he has been able to discover 15+ new genes for childhood blindness due to retinal degenerations. This work was supported by grants from NIH (NEI), CIHR, Fighting Blindness Canada, The MCH foundation, Telethon of stars, the FRSQ and Reseau de Vision. This led to the publication of 140+ peer-reviewed papers. He is now the principle investigator (PI) at McGill, the Montreal Children’s Hospital and the MUHC Center for Innovative Medicine (CIM) for 7 human clinical trials to test new drugs, new genes, new genetic methods and other modalities to combat blindness due to photoreceptor diseases. In his free time, he bikes 365 days per year and keeps a healthy diet.



Dr. Jean Deschenes, M.D., FRCSC

Clinical Neurophysiologist and Ophthalmologist-in-Chief at McGill University Health Center

Dr. Jean Deschênes is a professor of ophthalmology at McGill University. His main clinical and research interest are treating immune related problems of the eye involving uveitis, cornea and the anterior segment. Dr. Deschênes set up a practice center for seeing patients in ocular immunology dealing with uveitis, external disease and cornea. In teaching, a new section of ophthalmology, concerning ocular immunology and uveitis, was set up, a facility that was unique in Quebec and Canada, and which became well known. With all the developments in ocular immunology occurring at McGill, there were many publications and invitations for Dr. Deschênes to write chapters in prominent textbooks. From the research point of view, his and the research unit’s major contribution has been in the understanding of the normal immunology of the eye and the changes occurring in ocular inflammation.


Over the years, many of the residents and fellows who worked under the supervision of Dr. Deschênes are now well established in university centers in Canada, South America, Middle East and the United States. Ocular immunology has become an important part of the program for teaching clinical care and research. Its international reputation is growing, and McGill is known as a center where treatment of immune diseases of the eye is first rate with excellent research being done.


In addition to his work at MUHC, Dr. Deschênes has also found time to be active in many professional associations including, the Canadian Ophthalmological Society, the Association des médecins ophtalmologistes du Québec as president and the International Uveitis Study Group. He has also been an Associate Dean in the Faculty of Medicine and acted as the Residency Training Program Director. Dr. Deschênes is the Vice-Chair of the Central Executive Committee of the  MUHC Council of Physicians, Dentists and Pharmacists (CPDP) and President of the RVH/Glen local CPDP.



Dr. Irma Lopez, PhD.

Research associate/Team leader, Laboratory for Retinal Genetics and Therapeutics.

Dr. Irma Lopez is a research associate at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Center, where Irma leads the Ocular Genetics Lab. Her main interest is to find the genes that cause the disease for blind patients to lead to treatment for blindness. Irma started working with Dr. Robert Koenekoop at the research institute of the Montreal Children’s Hospital since 2001. Irma obtained her MSc in Biochemistry from National Autonomous University of Mexico in 1988 and she continued her studies at Laval University, Quebec in 1991, where she obtained her PhD in physiology with a strong background in molecular biology. Irma is certified for Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and Good Clinical Practice (GCP). Irma is happy to have the chance to see the full process from seeing the patient, discover the gene and see the patient get treatment.


Norma Fajardo, M.Sc.

Clinical Activities Specialist

Norma obtained her bachelor degree in Biochemistry from National University of Mexico. She continued her education and obtained her masters degree in Physiology from Laval University in 1995. Norma decided to pursue her studies and obtained a second Masters in Molecular Biology at Laval University in 1998. She worked in a special project between Canada (Physical Education Program in Quebec) and Mexico (National Institute of Nutrition). She has worked as a Teacher for several years. Norma joined Dr. Koenekoop’s team in 2014 as a laboratory research assistant. Norma is certified for Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and Good Clinical Practice (GCP). She works today as Clinical Activities Assistant where she overlooks many different ongoing projects. Norma has several publications in International journals.


Raquel Beneish, MSc.


Raquel (Kelly) graduated in Orthoptics in 1974 at Université Louis Pasteur in Strasbourg (France) and immigrated to Canada in 1975. She obtained a BSc in biology from Concordia University in 1979. A few years later, she obtained her MSc in physiology from McGill University in 1988. She has held numerous positions within her professional associations including that of translator for both the Quebec Orthoptic Association and the Canadian Orthoptic Society (1976 to 1987) and continued translating the Canadian National Board exams until 2015 for the Canadian Orthoptic Council (COC).

In 1987, Raquel was elected President of the Canadian Orthoptic Society and was appointed to the position of Examiner by COC in 1988, a position she held for 30 years. In 2003, she was the first orthoptist to be nominated to the position of Chief Examiner, a position she held until 2006. She has held a faculty position at McGill University since 1990 as an assistant professor. She has 20 publications in peer reviewed journals and 102 presentations to her credit including clinical and basic research papers at National and International conferences. She was an abstract editor for the American Orthoptic Journal (2001 -2006) and reviewed numerous papers for different journals.


Connie Pham


Connie studied photography in college. She started working as an ophthalmic technician as a summer job and never left the ophthalmology field. She has been in this field for over a decade so far. In addition to her educational experience, Connie is currently working as a certified ophthalmic photographer who uses highly specialized imaging equipment to take inner pictures of the eye and its structures. She has a vast knowledge of performing ICG angiography, fluorescein angiography, optical coherence tomography, electroretinography, and external photography. These images allow doctors to diagnose, monitor and treat disorders or diseases of the eye.


Mona Hijazi, BSc.


Mona graduated as a licensed Orthoptist from the University of Medicine, France in 1987. She received Board Certification from the Canadian Orthoptics Council and the Canadian Ophthalmological Society in 2008. Mona has over 30 years of experience in Orthoptic studies including ocular motility and visual development. She works closely with ophthalmologists in providing care for adults and children.

Mona has worked as an Orthoptist in France, Lebanon, and Canada. She worked at the Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital and she is currently employed at the McGill University Health Center in Montreal. Mona is also an Ophthalmic Photographer. She is certified in Microperimetry, DAC, ERG, FST, Static Perimetry, Kinetic Perimetry, SD, OCT, and FAF. She works as an active member of Dr. Koenekoop’s research team. She is a member of several organizations including: The Orthoptist French Association, The Canadian Orthoptics Council and from 2005-2008 she served as a representative of the Orthoptics of Quebec in the Canadian Council. 


Gaëla Cariou-Panier


Gaëla is an orthoptist with a diploma from the Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse (France) in 1999. She perfects herself by obtaining, in 2003, a university degree in Refraction and in 2005, in Basse-Vision. In 2013, she immigrated to Quebec, Canada. Gaëla passed her Canadian Orthoptie Certificate in 2014. She has been working at the Montreal Children’s Hospital in Montreal. She also collaborates at the St-Justine’s Hospital and Maisonneuve Rosemont. In 2016, she joined Dr Koenekoop’s research team where she obtained various certifications as a photographer. For these studies, she is responsible for several tests: BCVA, refraction, LLVA, Contrast vision, Maia, VF and DAC.

Gaëla is a preceptor in a program, the PIFO (Francophone Orthoptist Integration Program), which trains Francophone orthoptists who arrive in Quebec to fill the shortage of this profession. She is also a member of the Association des Orthoptists du Québec, The Canadian Orthoptist Society and the Canadian Orthoptic Council.



Glenda Vargas


Glenda Vargas is a technician ophthalmologist working with adults and children since 2008. At first, Glenda was trained by optometrists and then by Ophthalmologists helping them and doing tests on visual impaired patients. She acquired experience and kept performing eye exams. She studied and trained at Montreal University. She was trained to do OCT's, Humphreys, visual acuity and others tests at the Clinique de l'oeil de Montreal. She is working on the certifications for OCT's, FST's and DAC for the clinical trials studies directed by Dr. Koenekoop.



Isabelle Delpech

Research coordinator/ Registered  Nurse

Isabelle is a registered nurse since 2001 at the Royal Victoria Hospital. She started her experience as a study coordinator  in different departments at The Royal Victoria  Hospital in Diabetes, Anesthesia, hepathology then ophthalmology. Since 2005, she worked for the department of ophthalmology at the McGill Academic Eye center  for different specialists in retina, glaucoma, uveitis. She is conducting most of the pharmaceutical studies in our clinic. In addition to be the contact with the different organizations involved in a study. Isabelle conducts the patient through the procedures  during the visit and gives support to the doctors when needed. She really likes to work in research as the contact with the patient is direct and we can give all the support they need.



Uzziel Tamon


Uzziel is the Information Technologist and Medical Archives coordinator at The Children's Clinic and Brunswick Medical Center. Data manager as well as Analyst for several research projects at the Centre for Innovative Medicine at the McGill University Health Center in Montreal. Uzziel was born and raised in Cameroon. He lived in Denmark and Sweden before moving to Montreal. He studied Computer systems Networking Telecommunications with emphasis on Cisco Networking at the Gate Inc University, Bamenda Cameroon. He works as a member of Dr. Koenekoop’s research team. He is the unmasked photographer for MP, OCT & FAF, FP and BCVA. He is also working on a project that evaluates the Sudden Unexpected Death in Epileptic Patients.


Genetics Team

Daniela Buhas,  MD, FRCPC, FCCMG

Daniela is a Medical Geneticist working at MUHC. After finishing the residency in Medical Genetics at CHU Ste-Justine, she completed a CCMG fellowship in Biochemical Genetics at McGill University. As a clinician, she is seeing both children and adults with general genetic and metabolic conditions. Dr Buhas has also specialized clinics in mitochondrial disorders and oculogenetics. She is also Associate Director of Biochemical Genetics Laboratory at MUHC Optilab.

She is an active member of Canadian College of Medical Geneticists, being the chair of Canadian Metabolic Committee, as well as the director of CCMG training in Biochemical Genetics at McGill University.  Her teaching activities, as Assistant Professor in Human Genetics Department at McGill involve students, residents, fellows, nurses and genetic counselling trainees.



Laurence Baret

Laurence has been a Genetic Counsellor in the Adult Genetics Program in the Department of Medical Genetics at the MUHC since 2015. Prior to joining the MUHC, she worked in prenatal diagnosis and cancer genetics at the Jewish General Hospital. She received a Master of Arts in Bioethics in 2008 at Université de Montréal and a Master of Science degree in Genetic Counselling from University of Toronto in 2013. Laurence is a Lecturer in the Department of Human Genetics at McGill University as well as a clinical supervisor to graduated and genetic residents and fellows.

As a genetic counsellor, Laurence provides comprehensive genetic counselling consultations to individuals and families with a history of a genetic condition. Laurence sees patient with diverse genetic conditions at her General Adult Genetic Counselling clinics. She is involved in the Oculargenetics (inherited retinal dystrophies) specialty clinic.



Special thanks to Mr. Jonathan Bedard, for his time and dedication to creating and managing the McGill Ocular Genetics Laboratory website.