By Suhas B. Naik-Satam, past president of the Rotary Club of Bombay Chembur West, Maharashtra, India
In March, during our silver jubilee year, my Rotary club sponsored a vocational training team of ophthalmologists to Ethiopia to improve the abilities and skills of eye surgeons at various medical centers there.
Under the direction of club president S.R. Balasubramanian and led by Dr. Haresh Asnani, a past president of our club, the team of three super specialists included a vitreoretinal surgeon, a pediatric ophthalmologist/squint specialist, and an oculoplastic surgeon/ocular oncologist. Our club partnered with Beyond Eye Care, an organization that manages the India Eye Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital.
The team conducted medical education programs and clinic workshops on topics including common retinal disorders, diabetic retinopathy, common eyelid disorders, and squint problems. Members conducted classroom lectures and a few practical workshops on pediatric eye disease examination that doesn’t require expensive equipment. They also stressed the importance of timely intervention in childhood squints, eye tumors, and cataracts.
The program benefited around 14 ophthalmologists, 25 postgraduate students, 40 optometrists, and 20 ophthalmic nurses over five teaching sessions, five surgical workshops, and six clinical demonstration sessions.
One of the team members noted the amount of expensive equipment that had been donated but that was just lying around unused because doctors and paramedical staff had not been trained in its use or maintenance. The team spent time teaching them the proper handling of these.
Dr. Akshay Nair, the youngest member of the team, said the whole experience was extremely rewarding. We were able to demonstrate many different surgical procedures as well as have fruitful clinical sessions that involved video-assisted skill-transfer sessions. The demand and need for ocular oncology and oculoplastic specialists is high in Ethiopia, and the next step is to arrange training opportunities in India for Ethiopian ophthalmologists.
The team had discussions with the respective hospital managements to draw up strategy to sustain the benefits of this program, especially at St. Paul’s and ALERT Hospitals and Hawassa University, by facilitating fellowship programs for their doctors and providing technical support for their surgical equipment.
Rotary has yet again played a helping hand by envisioning, executing, and enabling such a worthy project.