Candidate Profile and Statements 2019

Candidate(s) for NAVAO President: 

Kevin Mercado, OD, FAAO (Hickory CBOC – Asheville VAMC • NC)

Dear NAVAO Members,

Thank you to everyone who nominated me for a second term as President of the NAVAO.  It has been a humbling privilege serving in the footsteps of many very accomplished past NAVAO leaders.

For those of you that do not know me, I have been a VA optometrist since 2007 and currently work for the Asheville VA at the VA Hickory Community Based Outpatient Clinic in North Carolina.  I come from a long line of family military service members which has reinforced my belief and passion in the VA mission of serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s Veterans .

I have been an active NAVAO member during my time with VA.  I served three terms on the NAVAO Board as Director of Technology before serving as President of the NAVAO.  As President, I have done my best to represent VA optometry and would strive to continue the NAVAO mission of encouraging and promoting the best possible primary eye and vision care for our nation’s Veterans along with supporting the growth and welfare of our profession.  I will continue to promote NAVAO’s advancement by means of the technological progression of our website, online resources, improved means of communication for our members and focus on membership recruitment and retention.

With your support, I will continue to bring a hard-working, organized mentality to the NAVAO Presidency and work to find ways to grow NAVAO providing a strong voice for VA optometry.


Kevin Mercado, OD, FAAO

Candidate(s) for NAVAO Vice-President: 

Molly B. McGinty-Tauren, OD, FAAO (Battle Creek VAMC • MI)

Current NAVAO office: Treasurer 2017 to present

Past NAVAO experience: Events committee, Chairman, 2015-2017

Practice location information: Battle Creek VAMC, joined medical staff in 2004, Residency Program Coordinator 2014 to present

Additional Professional Involvement: ABCMO, executive board member 2010 to present; AAO Admittance Committee 2014 to present

Education: University of Michigan, B.S.; New England College of Optometry, O.D.; and Ocular Disease Residency, Battle Creek VA

Personal Statement:  My acceptance of this nomination stems from admiration of our predecessors’ leadership.  I have benefited from professional relationships with leaders from NAVAO’s earliest years to its most recent.   VA optometry pioneers and champions clinical education and post graduate training which is the aspect of my career I’ve found most rewarding.

Candidate(s) for NAVAO Treasurer:

Heather Whyte DeMarco, OD (Kernersville Outpatient Eye Clinic – Hefner VAMC • NC)

Being relatively early in my career, I am extremely honored by the nomination to serve as NAVAO treasurer. As treasurer, one of the roles is to not only collect monies but also disburse them appropriately for official activities.  My attention to detail and keen sense of organizational skills, will aid in my duties as treasurer. Another task of the treasurer is to provide a written as well as verbal report of the financial matters – my experience with communication and prior public speaking engagements, for example a grand rounds presentation at the most recent American Academy of Optometry meeting, have prepared me for such duties.

Also, as someone who has routinely been an active leader in various organizations throughout my educational and professional career, I am confident that I can serve our members well. I am looking forward to the opportunity to serve as NAVAO treasurer.

Candidate(s) for NAVAO Secretary:

Christopher Bugajski, OD (St. Joseph County VA Clinic – Northern Indiana Health Care System • IN)

Current NAVAO office:
Events Committee member                                2018 – present

Past NAVAO experience:

Photographer for the annual NAVAO meeting     2016 – 2018

Practice location information:
St. Joseph County VA Health Care Center                                  Oct. 2017 – present
Tomah VAMC                                                                           Sept. 2016 – Sept. 2017
Student Program Coordinator for St. Joseph County VA              Program will begin May 2020

Additional Professional Involvement:
ABCMO: Member
Candidate for Fellowship at Academy meeting 2019
Armed Forces Optometric Society: VA Junior Board Member, effective appointment: Feb. 2019 – 2020

Knox College, B.A.
Illinois College of Optometry, O.D.
Battle Creek VAMC, Ocular Disease Residency

Personal Statement:
NAVAO has provided an excellent opportunity for the development of personal and professional relationships. I have appreciated my relationships formed through NAVAO. The organization has also provided me with a wonderful opportunity to assist with its mission from behind the lens. I look forward to continuing to push the organization forward via a new opportunity.


Janel Chou, OD, FAAO (Hampton VAMC • VA)

I would be honored to continue to serve you as NAVAO Secretary for this next term.  I believe the NAVAO is an essential and integral part of VA Optometry.  We, as a group,  should continue to share best practices, communicate, and support each other as we serve and honor our nation’s Veterans.  As secretary, I would continue to aid in communication by providing up to date information to our members via the website and monthly conference call minutes.  I would work with the membership committee in finding new ways to recruit members and strengthen support and camaraderie within VA Optometrists.  I would also continue to support the NAVAO President in standing up for our rights and privileges within VHA, representing the gold standard in optometric practice, fostering student and resident education and enriching a sense of community within VA Optometry.  Thank you for time and consideration!