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  • Global Ophthalmology: Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary, University of Illinois Chicago  

    Editor's note: Fellowship programs to expand ophthalmology residents' world view for delivering eye care have proliferated around the country. This is the fourth in a series of YO Info articles on global ophthalmology fellowship programs.

    We recently celebrated the life and achievements of Dr. Marilyn Miller, longtime University of Illinois faculty member, pediatric ophthalmologist and a pioneer of global ophthalmology.

    Dr. Miller, though modest, was a force in the global arena, touching the lives of generations of eye health providers and patients around the world. For decades, Dr. Miller’s global work grew from clinical care to teaching and lecturing across the globe and ultimately helping to establish formal pediatric eye centers, many of which bear her name.Where It All Began

    The Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary (IEEI) at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) has a rich history and community focused on international work and caring for the underserved in our local communities. In 2015 we formally created a global ophthalmology division that encompasses the many faculty and programs we already had with the goal of building capacity to meet the growing needs of eye health both here and abroad. We feel that the best way to achieve this is to partner with local groups to build educational, training, advocacy, and research programs.

    Global Ophthalmology in Residency

    Global ophthalmology is a lifelong journey. As such, we have created programs to involve our trainees at all levels. Last year, we launched an optional global ophthalmology track for our residents. The track provides structured resources including access to faculty mentors, projects, global health coursework and travel support for various global projects.

    Our residents can participate in a two-week exchange with Universidade Federal de Sao Paulo (UNIFESP) in Sao Paolo and Keio University in Tokyo. Our residents have come to value the relationships built and cultural lessons learned through observing how ophthalmology is practiced in diverse settings across the globe.

    We also have collaborative virtual didactic sessions with many of our global partners in the form of grand rounds, journal clubs and lectures. These provide an opportunity to discuss a variety of topics and cases and consider how the approaches to management can be similar or different depending on geography, culture and resources.


    Our research aims to address health disparities around the world through projects focusing on retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), Axenfeld Reiger, toxic optic neuropathies and others. The power of research lies in the ability to magnify impact and lead to better health outcomes for all.

    Global Ophthalmology Fellowship Program

    Left to right: Emily Cole (UIC), Duaa Sharfi (Emory) and Wanja Mathenge (Stanford). The fun of an unplanned meet-up in Rwanda when unrelated projects overlap.

    The Global Ophthalmology Fellowship program has several advantages. It provides specific skills that are often not taught in traditional training. Minimally invasive cataract surgery (MSICS), for example, is something that all our fellows learn. Additionally, the program helps foster an environment that encourages networking and relationship-building in this arena that are crucial to the success of global work.

    In 2019, we launched our new global ophthalmology fellowship. Utilizing existing relationships, we created opportunities for our fellow to acquire new skills through Aravind’s MSICS course, teach clinical and surgical skills in Haiti and Honduras, build global ROP screening programs and get involved with numerous other programs across the world.

    Looking to the Future

    Our program is new and growing. We continue to expand our network of partners by participating in events such as the Academy’s sponsored Global Ophthalmology Summit, collaborating with new international programs and participating in virtual global ophthalmology journal clubs. Ultimately, we strive to advance global ophthalmology and to attract more health care providers who wish to to do the same.

    Read about other global ophthalmology programs in the series:

    Part 1: Moran Eye Center Global Fellowship Program

    Part 2: 7 Reasons to Pursue a Global Fellowship 

    Part 3: Global Ophthalmology: Dean McGee Eye Institute