During the Global Ophthalmology Summit in Atlanta earlier this month, I presented data from a new community-based diabetic retinopathy screening program in Kenya.
Based out of Kisii in partnership with Dr. Daniel Kiage, this program sought to assess the prevalence of diabetes mellitus and diabetic retinopathy in rural Kenya. Our team found lower-than-expected prevalence numbers largely due to significant barriers identified with data collection and screening follow-up at the main eye hospital.
However, we still found it important to share our experience with others who may seek to implement similar community-based programs. It was exciting for me and for my co-presenter, Dr. Jessica Waninger, to speak on ways to replicate this initiative from another country in the United States with leaders like Loyola Medicine’s Ophthalmology Chair Charles Brouchard, MD.
My presentation wasn’t even at the top of my list of exciting moments at the 2023 Global Ophthalmology Summit! The summit provided an invaluable platform for learning, networking and exploring global eye care.
Organized by a group of academic centers including the Emory Eye Center and Academy, the summit attracted over 260 ophthalmologists, residents, fellows and medical students, along with representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), health providers and the ophthalmic industry. (Read more about educational centers that offer fellowships to support global eye care.)
It seamlessly brought together a diverse spectrum, from seasoned experts with decades of experience to young ophthalmologists at the early stages of their careers. Here are my top 10 highlights from the 2023 Global Ophthalmology Summit:
1. Hearing Dr. Dan Briceland speak on behalf of the Academy
It’s clear the Academy is committed to addressing health disparities when the organization’s president is in attendance, sitting in the front row, all weekend.
Left to right: Meeting S. Grace Prakalapakorn, MD; Sila Bal, MD, MPH; and Academy President Daniel J. Briceland, MD. Here I am getting a personal welcome from Dr. Briceland.
2. Learning about Project Prakash’s incredible success
Drs. Umang Mathur and Pawan Sinha spoke about Project Prakash, a transformative initiative that works to restore sight to children with congenital eye disease at Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital in India.
3. Spending time with the University of Michigan Global Eye Care Community
It was an enriching experience to attend the summit with 12 other representatives from the University of Michigan. It was especially great to support faculty members like Maria Woodward, MD; Angela Elam, MD; and Christine Nelson, MD, as they presented their work to improve global eye care.
University of Michigan, Kellogg Eye Center attendees coming together for a photo. The group had representation ranging from medical students to residents to fellows to global eye care leaders.
4. Meeting Alan Robin, MD
The first time I heard Dr. Robin’s name was while reading the book “Infinite Vision” in college. To meet him in person, see him speak about international glaucoma (“the good, the bad and the ugly”) and even receive advice from him as I embark on the next phase of training is truly awe-inspiring.
5. Meeting young ophthalmologists
The networking receptions fostered connections and camaraderie not just among those of us early in our careers, but also with faculty members as well, including the summit organizers, Jacquelyn O’Banion, MD, and Jeff Pettey, MD.
I met fellow young ophthalmologists at the conference and we subsequently spent time together at an evening networking reception.
6. Participating in the Global Hackathon
This year marked the first-ever hackathon, bringing together a dynamic mix of ophthalmologists, residents, medical students, NGOs and industry representatives to “come together to find answers we can’t find alone.” My team worked toward creating a solution to address supply chain issues associated with the acquisition of ophthalmic surgical equipment for low-resource settings.
7. Practicing surgical skills
It was really incredible sitting down for my first ever wet lab and learning basic techniques in cataract surgery. As a medical student, I’ve scrubbed into a few procedures during my ophthalmology rotations, but this experience really brought everything I’ve learned to life.
8. Discovering Atlanta’s vibrant charm
Beyond the walls of the Peachtree Ballroom, exploring the city was a delightful bonus. Whether it was strolling the BeltLine, savoring dinner at Ponce City Market with family or enjoying a morning run in Piedmont Park, it was fun to see all that Atlanta had to offer! #PeaceUpA-TownDown
9. Getting my first pair of glasses
Thanks to GO program committee member Sila Bal, MD, I have a fresh new pair of glasses! I can’t wait for them to sharpen my vision for the future.
10. Finally, watching a cool head like R.V. Paul Chan, MD, prevail
There’s no better example than watching Dr. Chan deliver an ad-lib version of his presentation when he encountered technical difficulties. It was a great illustration of the flexible mindset needed when doing global health work — where things often don’t go according to plan.
I encourage you to save the date for the 2024 Global Ophthalmology Summit, Aug. 9 to 11, 2024, in Portland, Ore.
- The 2023 Global Ophthalmology Summit was organized by a group of academic centers including the Emory Eye Center, the Academy, industry and international organizations. Read more about educational centers that offer fellowships to support global eye care.
- Stay tuned for more stories about global eye care in October’s International Edition of YO Info.
- Emory University, Emory Eye Center
- Francis I. Proctor Foundation, University of California San Francisco, Department of Ophthalmology
- Oregon Health Science University, Casey Eye Institute
- Thomas Jefferson University, Wills Eye Hospital
- University of Illinois, Eye and Ear Infirmary
- University of Michigan, W.K. Kellogg Eye Center
- University of Rochester Medical Center, Flaum Eye Institute
- University of Utah, Moran Eye Center
- University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
||About the author: Bela Parekh, BA, BS, is a fourth-year medical student at the University of Michigan, where she is part of the Global Health Research Certificate Program. Her interest in global ophthalmology began when she volunteered at Aravind Eye Hospital during college. She has since engaged in research in Sri Lanka, Ghana and Kenya to improve health care accessibility and is passionate about improving care for patients with genetic eye disease.