OCT 2013

EyeWorld is the official news magazine of the American Society of Cataract & Refractive Surgery.

Issue link: https://digital.eyeworld.org/i/194331

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Page 29 of 134

October 2013 EW NEWS & OPINION 27 Chief medical editor's corner of the world Training the trainers by David F. Chang, MD Dr. Chang: Tell us about your background and how you became an ophthalmologist. S panning the wine country to Silicon Valley, the greater San Francisco Bay Area has a population of 7 million people in its 100 cities spread across nine counties. I estimate that we have more than 400 ophthalmologists practicing in this region. In contrast, the Amhara region of northern Ethiopia has only 6 ophthalmologists serving a population of 18 million. Five of them practice at the region's only tertiary eye center in Gondar, the fourth largest city in the country. Gondar is home to the second oldest university in Ethiopia and has one of only three ophthalmology residency programs in the entire country. Through collaboration between the ASCRS Foundation and the Himalayan Cataract Project, fellow ASCRS member Stewart Van Horn, MD, and I made separate trips to Gondar this summer as visiting faculty. I found that the five ophthalmologists at Gondar University are energetic and well trained. Despite working long hours, they are eager to learn new skills and are truly dedicated to the population that they serve. Currently there are only nine ophthalmology residents in Gondar University's four-year training program, and the ophthalmology department's goal is to increase the size of both the staff and the training program. The chief of ophthalmology at Gondar is Dr. Yared Assefa, an excellent clinician and surgeon. Yared is a resourceful and capable leader who has built his eye department from scratch during the past decade. More recently he oversaw construction of a freestanding eye hospital that can accommodate a major expansion of his department. Yared did his cornea and external disease training at the UCSF Proctor Foundation and was excited to return to San Francisco this past April when we hosted him at the ASCRS•ASOA Symposium & Congress. Ethiopia desperately needs more ophthalmologists and training centers of excellence, and Yared's vision is to continue to develop just such a center at Gondar. to look for a more stable job, which would allow me to practice on a regular basis. Dr. Assefa: I started my eye residency in 1998. Before that, I was a general practitioner for five years, and during that period, I spent the last two years as a general medical practitioner at an eyecare center. During this time, I worked with eye doctors and saw the most common causes of blindness in Ethiopia such as cataracts and trachoma. As a result, I became interested in ophthalmology and decided to enter an ophthalmology residency in 1998. Upon finishing my residency training in 2002, I wanted to practice general ophthalmology. I started out by working with ORBIS International, a nonprofit ophthalmic governmental organization functioning in Ethiopia, which focuses on the prevention of blindness. I worked part time with ORBIS for approximately eight months before I began Dr. Chang: What brought you to the University of Gondar? Dr. Assefa: After working with ORBIS, I found a vacancy in the eye department at the University of Gondar, which is in northwest Ethiopia, just over 700 kilometers from the capital city of Addis Ababa. One of the ophthalmologists who was working there was leaving, and I was able to join the university's Department of Ophthalmology in June 2003. Over time, other NGO partners like ORBIS International, Light for the World, and later the Himalayan Cataract Project came on board to work with our Department of Ophthalmology. Dr. Chang: How important to your program is the support of nonprofit organizations like Himalayan Cataract Project and the ASCRS Foundation? Dr. Assefa: With the help of these partners, we can be more involved in teaching and in community outreach eyecare activities. We are also doing some basic eye research relevant to blindness prevention. Three years ago, the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Gondar constructed its own tertiary eyecare center, which is a separate freestanding eye hospital. Establishing a tertiary eyecare center helped us to attract new NGO partners and to do more with our existing partners. This is how I came to work first with the Himalayan Cataract Project and then later with the ASCRS Foundation. We very much look forward to working with ASCRS. Dr. Chang: What sort of resources or assistance from these partners would help you the most? continued on page 28 Dr. Assefa at Gondar Eye Center Gondar University residents and staff ophthalmologists Operating room in Gondar Dr. Assefa and colleagues practice phaco on the Kitaro eye. David F. Chang, MD, chief medical editor Source (all): David F. Chang, MD

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