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  • SOE Mini Exchange Program Matches YOs

    In 2015, during the European Society of Ophthalmology (SOE) Congress in Vienna, an idea was born: a two-year mini-exchange program where young ophthalmologists are paired, then travel to each other’s home countries for a two- to three-day experience.  

    Each YO would host the other in his or her own home and bring them to work to share how ophthalmologic care is handled in different countries and settings. For the visiting ophthalmologists, it would be an opportunity to reflect on how the health care systems might be adopted in their home countries. Both participants could gain insight into another culture and possibly make a new friend. 

    See a slideshow of SOE young ophthalmologist events and participants.

    It wasn’t until SOE 2019 in Nice, France, however, that the program really got off the ground. In June, 40 YOs from across Europe signed up for the exchange program. Their names were placed in a hat, and participants were matched by drawing pairs. Afterwards, participants had the opportunity to plan their exchange the way they wanted, but agreed to a few guiding principles:

    • Hosting someone in their homes for a few days
    • Sleeping on a couch, if necessary, for a few nights
    • Ophthalmologists should be welcoming. You can talk about ophthalmology if nothing else works. 

    This year, the program matched Drs. Elisabeth Romundstad of Norway and Joanna Przybek-Skrzypecka of Poland. Below, each doctor describes in her own words what motivated her to take part in the exchange and what she hopes it will bring to her career. 

    Elisabeth Romundstad

    Elisabeth RomundstadI’m in my fourth year of residency, working at Alesund Hospital, a small hospital on the west coast of Norway. In June, I attended the European Society of Ophthalmology Congress in Nice, France. 

    There I was introduced to the SOE YO mini exchange program. With a husband and three children, it is not easy [for me] to leave Norway for international experiences. I saw the mini exchange as a perfect opportunity to become familiar with another country’s way of organizing its health system and educational programs [in] the ophthalmology field – all in a shorter period of time. Maybe it will give me insight into new ways of solving some of the challenges I will meet as an ophthalmologist in Norway. 

    The way the mini exchange is organized also makes it possible to gain a friend for life in the same field of work in another country. I truly believe that Joanna [Przybek-Skrzypecka] is going to become my Polish ophthalmologist friend.

    Joanna Przybek-Skrzypecka

    I’m an ophthalmology specialist from Warsaw, Poland. During my five years of residency (2013-18), I had a chance to observe or work in some ophthalmology units throughout the world from Moorfields, Manchester Royal Eye Hospital in the United Kingdom, Columbia University in New York, Malaga in Spain, Groningen in the Netherlands, to Heidelberg University in Germany. 

    Every one of them enriched me in many different ways, from broadening my ophthalmology knowledge and skills to my first phaco simulator sessions in Manchester – I was over the moon spending long hours on keeping the spheres in place or performing my first rhexis! 

    I was honored to listen to ophthalmology stars, like Professor Trokel’s or Professor Yanuzzi’s lectures, and to making lifelong friendships and gaining an insight into different [health] care systems. There were once-in-a-lifetime experience moments in my life, something I could have never found in my home [country]. 

    I believe there is nothing better for a young doctor than taking part in such international exchange programs like the SOE YO Mini Exchange in order to observe other countries’ health systems and ways of managing their problems and to start new friendships with like-minded people.

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    About the author: Marie Louise Roed Rasmussen MD, PhD, is a member of the Academy’s YO International Subcommittee and the immediate past chair of the European Society of Ophthalmology (SOE) YO Committee.