Another First: HCP Fellowship Means New Specialty Care for Ethiopia
A new fellowship in uveitis means Ethiopia will soon have a dedicated doctor who resides in the country available to diagnose and treat the disease.
Dr. Amare Atoma Gelalcha looks forward to bringing the skills he learns over the next several months as a fellow at Tilganga Ophthalmology Institute (TIO) home to Ethiopia to treat patients for uveitis. According to Dr. Gelalcha, he will be the first in “not only my country but also the broader region of east Africa” to have completed specialized training to treat this eye disease. Dr. Anu Manandhar, Uveitis Specialist and Director of Residency Training, is Dr. Gelalcha’s mentor while he is training at TIO.
“Imagine in a country of more than 120 million people, how prevalent the cases of uveitis are. Currently, it’s under-diagnosed or misdiagnosed. It’s undertreated or mistreated,” explains Gelalcha. “Uveitis and its role in the prevalence of blindness in Ethiopia is staggering.”
Left untreated, uveitis can lead to permanent vision loss.
Uveitis is inflammation that affects the middle layer of tissue in the eye wall (uvea). It usually happens when one’s immune system is fighting an infection but can also happen when one’s immune system attacks healthy tissue. Uveitis can come on suddenly and worsen quickly. Symptoms include eye redness, pain and blurred vision. It can affect one or both eyes and affect people of all ages.
“My training on uveitis will help the people of Ethiopia. It is a great relief for my people who are suffering from uveitis and hungry to get quality care,” says Gelalcha. When he returns from Nepal to Ethiopia following his fellowship, he will work with Jimma University’s Ophthalmology residency program to address the gap on uveitis training for residents and incorporate the learning into a required rotation. This will further expand local capacity allowing more doctors to treat this prevalent eye disease.
Gelalcha's subspecialty training will take one year to complete. He’s had some training before he arrived in Nepal. He will spend four months at TIO then return home to Ethiopia and work directly with Dr. John Kempen for four additional months. Gelalcha will finish with a fellowship abroad to fine-tune his new skills.
“The completion of my uveitis subspecialty and my return back home will open a new chapter for the whole nation,” he concludes. “I feel personally that this is a great opportunity and encouragement for me. I’ll be the only person (other than Dr. Kempen) in Ethiopia who can serve and deliver quality care for uveitic patients.”