UM 30 Under 30 List Feat. Sierra Domb, Visual Snow Initiative

Each fall, the University of Miami Alumni Association announces an open call for its 30 Under 30 list. To be considered for the 2024 list, candidates must have received either an undergraduate or a graduate degree from the University of Miami and be under the age of 30 as of May 31, 2024. The Young Alumni Leadership Council review committee selects 30 finalists, based on the impact made on their profession, community, and the University of Miami.

The 30 outstanding ’Canes under 30 chosen were asked to reflect on their brightest memories of the University and their own achievements. Their experiences highlight camaraderie, philanthropy, academic achievement, and an enduring love for the U from a young age.

Sierra Domb, the CEO of the Visual Snow Initiative, was featured. Here is Sierra Domb’s interview:

What Was Your Brightest Moment At The U?

One of the darkest moments of my life led me to some of my brightest moments at the U. I had to stop taking courses midway through my academic journey due to the onset of a debilitating neurological condition called Visual Snow Syndrome (VSS). Once my condition stabilized to the point where I could function, despite some newfound medical challenges, I returned to the U with resounding determination to finish what I started.

One of my brightest moments was when I had the honor of representing UM alumni at TEDxUMiami, where I gave a TEDx Talk called “What Is Visual Snow Syndrome? Transforming Anguish Into Action,” which detailed my journey of starting a nonprofit and funding medical research to help millions of people affected by VSS around the world. The other brightest moment was when I graduated with distinction, which was a significant milestone considering that a couple of years earlier, it seemed impossible.

My experience at the U empowered me to remain resilient in the face of adversity. It also helped propel me into my current global health advocacy as the youngest person on the International Advisory Board for the Columbia-WHO Center for Global Mental Health and through my philanthropic work for VSS.

What Did You Learn At The U That You Know You Couldn’t Have Learned Anywhere Else?

As a Miami native, the University of Miami offers a fulfilling and immersive experience that reflects the unique multicultural essence of the city while also incorporating additional global perspectives. Learning at the U is not linear or one-dimensional. It is multifaceted, encouraging exploration of diverse interests and connections between multiple fields, which can often complement each other. These different types of knowledge culminate in a comprehensive, well-rounded education.

Encompassing multiple fields, including philanthropy, medicine, science, research, digital production, and communication, my work today is enhanced by the vast knowledge I gained at the U, particularly as it pertains to curriculum in communication (health and interpersonal), qualitative research methods, genetics, writing, and multimedia/film. Additionally, joining the WVUM 90.5 FM family allowed me to gain hands-on experience as a DJ, radio personality, and live on-air host, as well as learn about the technical side of the industry. This ultimately led to opportunities for me to pursue professional voice acting prior to my nonprofit work.

How Have You Carried On The Legacy Of ’Canes Care For ’Canes Into Your Industry And Community?

Struggling with lifelong medical issues and experiencing the onset of a neurological disorder in 2015, I learned how millions of people worldwide suffer not only due to their health issues, but also because many physicians do not understand or acknowledge their conditions. Members of our own ’Canes community have been through this scenario, which can have devastating impacts on both their physical and mental health.

Just as the ’Canes Care for ’Canes philosophy encourages us to look out and stand up for one another, through my nonprofit organization and advocacy efforts, I am dedicated to fostering awareness, health equity, effective physician-patient communication, resources, research, and treatment development for people of all ages affected by marginalized medical conditions, particularly neurological disorders. We are dedicated to addressing both the physical symptoms and mental health-related aspects associated with chronic, debilitating, disabling, or life-altering medical conditions like VSS.

Striving to make the world a more accessible, educated, inclusive, and accommodating place, I have made it my mission to establish support and visibility for underrepresented patient populations both within the ’Canes community and on a global scale.

What Do You Think Is Your Most Noteworthy Accomplishment After Graduation?

After realizing most of the medical community knew nothing about my condition and there were no resources available to help me, I was determined to find solutions and help others around the world who faced similar struggles. I founded the Visual Snow Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to global awareness, education, resources, patient advocacy, treatment development, and research for VSS.

I also organized the first Visual Snow Conference at the University of California, San Francisco, a summit that brought together patients, their families, and VSS experts from around the world. Connecting with people affected by VSS in over 93 countries, I established a global research team consisting of physicians, scientists, and researchers with expertise in neurology/neuroscience, neuro-ophthalmology, ophthalmology, optometry, and advanced technology. Together, we have produced critical research in seven countries that led to the clinical, scientific acceptance of VSS as a distinct neurological condition (with both visual and non-visual symptoms), discoveries regarding the pathophysiology and biological basis of VSS, as well as the development of treatments for VSS symptoms where none existed.

We also developed the first diagnostic criteria for VSS, created the first global directory of VSS physicians, produced hundreds of educational videos about VSS for healthcare professionals and patients, established newfound awareness for VSS through multimedia content, and created physician-patient resources to improve health literacy, communication, and education regarding VSS. International health organizations like WHO, Mayo Clinic, and NIH utilize the resources we have created, and our studies have been published in medical journals such as Frontiers in Neurology, Brain Communications, the Journal of Neuro-Ophthalmology, PubMed, and more.

Additionally, the Visual Snow Initiative sponsored the Daytime Emmy Awards and has gained support from notable public figures. Currently, I am leading an initiative to secure an ICD code for VSS, which can lead to global insurance coverage, financial support, accurate diagnosis, clinical recognition, data collection, more treatment options, and further research.

To learn more visit:

UM 30 Under 30 List feat. Sierra Domb, Visual Snow Initiative

UM 30 Under 30 Program (Q&As with Honorees feat. Sierra Domb + Professional and Personal Highlights)