Veronica Villalon

Tell us about yourself


I am the Safety Manager and Medical Laser Safety Officer (MLSO) for the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center and Benioff Children’s Hospital; my name is Veronica Villalon and I have been a certified MLSO since 2011.

I completed both my B.S. in Chemistry and B.S. in Biology at UC Irvine (UCI) and studied synthetic organic chemistry for my Ph.D. at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB).  My first research project working with lasers was as an undergraduate at the Beckman Laser Institute (BLI) at UCI studying treatment of endometriosis using photodynamic therapy (PDT).

I have worked with lasers for over a decade and now oversee program compliance with Laser Safety across UCSF Health.  By becoming the MLSO for our institution, I am able to help UCSF meet the accreditation standards necessary to maintain patient care operations and provide the best health care.

I enjoy being the MLSO for UCSF Health and being involved in regulatory compliance.  I have the privilege of working with competent, knowledgeable, proactive professionals who are also passionate about staff, patient and visitor safety when it comes to lasers.  MLSOs today continue to be challenged by the ever-changing assortment of possible laser applications and rely heavily on department-specific Laser Safety Leads (LSLs) to assist with overall department laser safety program compliance.

Without a doubt, becoming certified as an MLSO has been beneficial for both the health care institution and for me as an individual.  Regulatory inspectors, leadership, colleagues and technical professionals recognize those who achieve certification are credible, knowledgeable and perform ethically in their field of expertise.  Should you wish to connect with me regarding my experience as an MLSO, please contact me at

Wendy Woehr Terrenoire

Tell us about yourself

My name is Wendy Woehr Terrenoire. I have my MS in Radiological Science from the University of Lowell, Lowell, MA and my BS in Radiological Science from Manhattan College, Riverdale, NY.

I work at the Durham VA Medical Center in Durham, NC.

When did you start working with lasers?

I started working in laser safety at Duke University, Durham, NC in 2008 under Ben Edwards.

How did you become the LSO?

In 2012 I became the Laser Safety Officer at Duke. I attended a weeklong LIA course and obtained my CLSO certification.

Do you like being the LSO? What do you feel are the LSO’s challenges today?

I love being the LSO. Coming from the health physics world, I discovered that as I learned more about lasers, my job became more interesting and challenging. When I was LSO at Duke the program was huge, with hundreds of research lasers and just under 100 medical lasers, and growing each month. I had a great laser team to help cover the safety for this program. The biggest challenge was obtaining support from management for the installation of laser safety equipment.

In 2016, I left Duke for the job as Radiation Safety Officer at the Durham VA Medical Center. At the VA, I am also the Laser Safety Officer. The laser program is smaller but still has its challenges. As the first CLSO at this VA, I have introduced many changes to the program that will improve the safety and treatment of our veterans.

How has becoming certified benefited you in your career?

Becoming certified has been a definite help. It helped me secure the LSO position at Duke, and was a bonus for securing the RSO position at the Durham VA. I highly recommend certification for anyone responsible for laser safety.

Joanna Casson

Tell us about yourself

My name is Joanna Casson. I have a bachelor’s degree in physics from Bryn Mawr College and a M.S. in electrical engineering from the University of New Mexico.

I have been an LSO since 2004. In 2008, I appointed the SME for laser safety at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where I work in the Physical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy Group of the Chemistry Division. I received my CLSO certification in March 2017.

When did you start working with lasers?

My senior research thesis at Bryn Mawr was on laser instabilities. After graduation, I worked for a year at Oak Ridge National Laboratory documenting undesirable mode characteristics in a CO2 laser. I have used lasers for experimental research in a variety of areas at LANL since 1996.

How did you become the LSO?

I became an LSO in 2004 shortly after a laser accident in my division shut down all laser experiments at LANL for a period of time. I was one of several Chemistry Division laser users who decided to become LSOs so that we could better help other laser users in our groups, divisions, and at LANL. Although at the time there was no LANL requirement to have any practical laser experience to be an LSO, many of us felt that that having an LSO with this experience would allow for better insight into how to apply laser safety principles to an experiment without hindering the researcher. I had been vice-chair of the LANL Laser Safety Committee (LSC) for a number of years. When the chair retired, I was elected chair of the LSC and appointed LANL’s SME for Laser Safety.

Do you like being the LSO? What do you feel are the LSO’s challenges today?

I enjoy being an LSO. It gets me out into the different laboratories across LANL and enables me to learn more about the variety of research taking place around the laboratory. The safety culture at LANL is very strong. It is critical that researchers be able to accomplish their goals while still working within the necessary safety envelope. It is important to me to have knowledgeable LSOs at LANL who can help find ways to conduct experiments safely.
How has becoming certified benefited you in your career?

I have only recently become certified, but I believe it will help add credibility to what I contribute in the various ANSI and EFCOG subcommittees of which I am a member.

Debra Miller

Tell us about yourself

My name is Debra Miller. I was born in New York and lived on a small island near Manhattan. Unfortunately, Hurricane Sandy demolished the area including my childhood home. I moved to Augusta, GA, with my parents and brother after my father was laid off after the completion of the Twin Towers construction in the early 70’s and started working at the local plant. My mother was the “All-American” domestic engineer raising two children and taking care of the household. My brother, John David, is a research chemist in Spartanburg, SC. He lives there with his wife Shelley, a nurse anesthetist, and his son, Benjamin. I lived in Augusta until 2008, when I remarried and moved to Lawrenceville, GA, with my husband, Eric, and son, Michael. We are now living in Braselton, GA.

I completed the nursing program at Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC, with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. My career started on the medical-surgical floor for a year, then transferred to the operating room (OR) and has been there ever since. I have learned over the years, “Never say Never.” I have been an operating room nurse for 27 years and I cannot imagine doing anything else. I am currently certified in three areas, CNOR for the OR, CURN for Urology, and, of course, CMLSO for laser. I also teach BLS (CPR) and have for the last 18 years to my peers. In my spare time, I enjoy gardening, reading, singing, music and, of course, my four-legged children, Muffin, Daisy and Emma.

When did you start working with lasers and how did you become the LSO?

I started with lasers in 2004 when Vangie Dennis taught the CMLSO class. The hospital I worked at the time wanted to start a laser program and since I worked in the Urology arena with the Holmium Laser frequently, I was chosen to be the Laser Safety Officer. At first it was difficult, but the knowledge from my mentors and LIA, AORN practice guidelines, OSHA, Joint Commission standards, and support from management turned intra-operative practices around. It was more difficult getting the physicians on board, trying to follow policies that were never enforced until now. Having administration support and taking your LSO practice to a patient safety issue, and use of risk management made a difference by lessening the physician’s resistance.

I currently have the privilege to practice my “calling” at Northeast Georgia Medical Center at Braselton as the LSO for the facility. I realize the great measures Northeast Georgia Medical center takes to ensure patient safety and associate education. It is truly a pleasure to work with an administration and supervisors that take laser safety practice seriously and the intra-departmental collaboration making it all happen. I county myself blessed to be a part of an excellent team of people and to LIA and BLS for their continuing work.

How has becoming certified benefited you in your career?

Being certified gave the facility validation for the program and me the courage to continue my studies and maintain a good standing. I am more of apatient safety advocate than before. I feel as though I can make a difference. Patients are more at ease when I tell them I’m the “laser” nurse and will be taking care of them.

We want to thank Debra for working with us on very short notice to provide a Featured CMLSO profile for this issue of the BLS News & Review. For those who attended ILSC this past March, you may remember that Deb assisted BLS and LIA on-site, as well as presented “Titles and Tantrums, How is Your Aim”. 

Kay Ball

Tell us about yourself

I am Kay Ball, PhD, RN, CNOR, CMLSO, FAAN

I have a Ph.D. in Health Related Sciences, Virginia Commonwealth University, MSA (Masters in Science of Administration) from Central Michigan University, and BSN (Bachelors in Science of Nursing) from Otterbein University, Westerville, OH

I have been a Professor of Nursing at Otterbein University since 2010. I am also a perioperative nurse educator and consultant; I work with perioperative nurses, professional organizations, healthcare facilities, industry, and legislative groups.

When did you start working with lasers?

In 1985, when I was hired as the Administrative Director at Grant Laser Center.

Why did you become certified?

Since the 4th edition of my book, Lasers: The Perioperative Challenge, will be published in 2017, I thought I had better take the certification exam to give me more validity.  This was long overdue and I’m embarrassed that it took me so long to carve out time to take the exam.  My book is often used to help study for the certification exam and I’m now very proud to be among those who are CMLSOs.

I enjoy being a CMLSO as this helps to add validity to my work in laser education.  Just like being CNOR (certified nurse in the operating room), I feel that certification is a critical part of my nursing career to help define my focus and demonstrate my excellence.

How has becoming certified benefited you in your career?

I have gained more recognition as an expert in laser technology.  Being certified has authenticated and legitimized the specialty of laser technology in my career.

Jerry Bowles

Tell us about yourself

I am Jerry Bowles, I have a BA in Physics, from Central Washington University.

I work for The Boeing Company, Radiation Health Protection Group, in Seattle, WA.

When did you start working with lasers?

I started working with lasers in 1989 as the “the Laser guy”, and have been working laser safety for twenty eight years; the last 13 years as a CLSO.

How did you become the LSO?

I was hired into Boeing in 1989 to oversee lasers in the Puget Sound area. The company reorganized in the early nineties and I became the company laser safety SME (Subject Matter Expert). I then earned my certification in February 2004.

Do you like being the LSO? What do you feel are the LSO’s challenges today?

I have had the opportunity to be involved with laser safety in an industrial, research and military environment. I have been able to participate in a lot of interesting projects over the years.

Developing and providing training to a wide range of laser users has been educational for me as well, I think making me a better LSO. Providing training to all levels of laser users has been challenging at times. The establishment of laser controlled areas and evaluating widely varied applications has also been challenging.

How has becoming certified benefited you in your career?

I have been associated with LIA and BLS for many years. The contacts made with these organizations have proven to be a great resource.

Being certified provides a level of credibility that users respect.

Kristy and Merrick DeWitt

Tell us about yourself

We are the DeWitts, Kristy and Merrick

Kristy: I have a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from the University of Virginia, and a BS in Chemistry & Physics, with a minor Mathematics at Mary Washington College.

Merrick: I have a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry as well from Wayne State University, and a BS in Chemistry, from Lawrence Technological University.

Currently we are both working as program managers at the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA).


When did you start working with lasers?

Kristy: I started working with lasers for research (presuming grocery store self-checkout kiosks and DVD players do not count) at the beginning of my graduate career at University of Virginia (UVA).  Between my graduate work, post-doc at the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST), and first job in a small laser-development company I have hands-on experience with a wide variety of laser systems, large frame gas lasers (excimer and CO2), solid state CW and pulsed lasers (YAG, YLF, and Ar+), dye lasers, ultrafast lasers and optical parametric amplifiers (OPAs), and fiber lasers.  In either a hands-on or laser program oversight capacity, I have worked with lasers for 16 years.

Merrick: My graduate research at Wayne State focused first on laser-based mass spectrometry for rapid DNA sequencing in 1991.  Challenges we faced in solving that problem led to the fabrication of a chirped-pulse amplified ultrashort laser that I used in studies of fundamental interactions of light and matter and intramolecular redistribution of energy in excited molecules leading to ionization and fragmentation.  During graduate research, I used excimer lasers to pump dye lasers for the DNA sequencing studies. The chirped pulse amplification system included argon-ion lasers to pump femtosecond lasers to seed the amplifiers and neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet lasers as the pump sources for the amplifiers.  In my post-doctoral studies at the University of Virginia and later in work at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, similar ultrashort pulsed laser systems evolved to include diode-pumped, neodymium-doped yttrium lithium fluoride lasers as much better pump sources for both the femtosecond seed and amplifier lasers as well OPOs and OPAs to increase the range of available laser wavelengths for research, from extreme UV to THz.


How did you become the LSO?

Kristy: The first company I worked at after my postdoc was developing prototype laser wind speed and direction indicators.  When the company began selling the prototypes commercially, they needed someone to make laser emission measurement and prepare product reports to apply for FDA accession numbers.

Merrick: I worked for a company developing prototype LIDAR systems for detection of wind speed and direction, and for landing assistance for helicopters in low visibility conditions.  When the company began selling the prototypes commercially, they needed someone to make laser emission measurements and prepare product reports to apply for FDA accession numbers.


Do you like being the LSO? How has becoming certified benefited you in your career?

Kristy: I have found my LSO certification to be very useful and beneficial to my career, even as I have changed my role with respect to laser work considerably.  In my first position I was directly involved in the development of new commercial laser products, so my LSO duties were perhaps the most “conventional”, measuring laser output parameters and preparing product reports for FDA registration.  As I have transitioned to a program oversight role, first as a technical support contractor at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and then IARPA and now as a government program manager at IARPA, I no longer make direct measurements of laser products.  However, I use my LSO knowledge to evaluate laser performance characteristics and safety plans in proposals to the government, and in test plans for systems under development.  Having the credentials of a certified LSO adds weight to my evaluation of laser safety in both proposed and ongoing government projects, in the projects I directly manage, and other projects for which I provide technical subject matter expertise.

Merrick: Following work at the LIDAR company, which sponsored my first CLSO classes and certification, I began supporting research efforts at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in a variety of optical and laser based technologies for which my experience as a CLSO was critical.  In one specific case, a program using lasers to detect air disturbances required approvals to operate outdoors by the Laser Clearinghouse, a group of military laser safety personnel who assure safe use of lasers outside the lab.  Being able to speak in the “language” of laser safety has always made those interactions much easier than they can be. Other work with projects involving laser guide stars for adaptive optics correction for telescopes and the related safety concerns is another example of how both my experience with lasers and my experience and certification as a CLSO has continued to benefit my work.  In fact, in the job I recently left at Parsons, I was the Laser Safety Officer for my division; I oversaw both the safety certifications for and was involved in much of the fundamental research and design work of the portable camera systems that used IR laser illuminators for spectral scene discrimination at night.

For more information about IARPA, visit:


Terri Clarkson

Tell us about yourself

My name is Terri Clarkson. I am a Registered Nurse and the CMLSO at SpaMedica in Toronto, Canada under the direction of Dr. Stephen Mulholland.

When did you start working with lasers?

I have been working with cosmetic surgical/aesthetic lasers at SpaMedica for 20 years now. We have a broad spectrum of technology covering every wavelength available for cosmetic/aesthetic applications.

How did you become the LSO?

As we grew and expanded, I was asked to be the MLSO and oversee the programs.
I became certified in 2004.

Do you like being the MLSO? How has becoming certified benefited you in your career?

What I enjoy most about being the CMLSO is the continuing education, teaching and sharing of knowledge with colleagues within the workplace.

For example, in 2010, I had the privilege of reviewing and critiquing a new training video called “Focal Points” for the Laser Institute of America.

Certification has validated my credibility and allowed me to work with different laser companies to assist in their training programs as well.

For more information about SpaMedica, visit: 

ILSC 2017 Highlights

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Welcome to ILSC 2017!

John Hoopman

Tell us about yourself

John E. Hoopman, CMLSO – I am currently the Laser Safety Officer at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Dallas.  I received my Associate of Applied Science Degree in 1998 in Lasers and Geometrical Optics.  I have been at UT Southwestern since graduation. I participated as a contributor on the first medical laser safety officer certification exam and was one of the original eight individuals to become a CMLSO.

How did you become LSO?

I started working with lasers immediately after graduation and helped operate a five hospital and multifaceted research program that included 120+ lasers at the time. Within 2 years, I was asked to take over the lead role of MLSO and since then, we have grown the program to over 320 lasers.  Our program is responsible for over 30 peer-reviewed published papers on surgical and aesthetic laser procedures.

Do you like being the LSO?

The most joy of being the CMLSO at UT Southwestern comes from the working / collaborative relationship I have with our faculty and staff.

Has becoming certified helped you in your career?

Being certified has helped support my credentials. It lends credibility to our publications and presentations.

Due to health concerns, the spring CLSO/CMLSO exam is being cancelled and the 2020 DOE workshop has been postponed. The fall exam will be held be held prior to the 2020 DOE workshop on August 17th, 2020. Our office team is working remotely and ready to assist you during our regular business hours!