CureBlindness | Dr. David Rooney
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Dr. David Rooney

profiles | Jul 29, 2021

Each year, HCP partners with Stanford University to offer an International Fellowship that provides highly-trained, early career ophthalmologists with global healthcare experience. Fellows work under the guidance of HCP Co-founder Dr. Geoff Tabin, training in surgical provision in challenging settings. Fellows are also paired with in-country partners to help local train providers and advance the skills of their local teams. Fellows are encouraged to integrate global service into their post-fellowship careers.

The most recent doctor to complete the one-year, highly competitive clinical fellowship was Dr. David Rooney. Dr. Rooney completed medical school at UAB School of Medicine, his residency at William Beaumont Hospital, and a glaucoma fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh.

Mentored by Dr.Tabin, Dr. Matt Oliva, and Dr. John Welling, Dr. Rooney treated patients and provided ophthalmic training to partners in Ethiopia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Rwanda. Dr. Rooney recently reflected on his year of working in global healthcare and provided insight into his experiences and his hopes for the future of eye care in low-resource countries.

Can you describe what it's like to see a patient regain their sight?
Even for a non-surgeon, witnessing someone regain their sight after a prolonged blindness can be an almost overwhelming moment of humanity. I am deeply thankful to HCP for the many moments of pure joy that I've shared with patients over the past year.

What was the most memorable story of working with a patient?
In the Spring, we were on a campaign in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. I remember that a mother brought in a young girl who was about 8 years old from several hours' drive away. The girl had developed white cataracts in both eyes about a year before, so she had been completely blind for a full year. Our team operated on her, and one day after surgery, the girl was able to see 20/20 in both eyes. I'll never forget the look on the mother's face after the patches were removed.

What is one thing about your experience that you will remember for the rest of your life?
I'll never forget the powerful feeling of connectedness, of uninhibited happiness shared with patients after restoring their sight. In those moments, differences in age, life experience, culture, and even language simply melt away.

How do you envision sharing the knowledge you gained during your fellowship?
This past year provided me with essential skills and professional friendships in the global ophthalmology community. I am excited for the doors that my HCP fellowship has opened, which will allow me to continue the fight against blindness in developing countries for decades to come.

What do you hope you will contribute to the future of global eye care?
I am a glaucoma specialist by training, so it was a revelation to work in African countries with among the highest glaucoma disease burdens in the world. As busy as glaucoma clinics I worked in could be, I came away with a strong sense that we were only treating the tip of the glaucoma iceberg. In the years to come, I intend to help expand access to high quality, affordable, and sustainable glaucoma care in Africa.

As Dr. Rooney ends his fellowship, Dr. Wanja Mathenge joins HCP as the new international fellow. Born and raised in Kenya, Dr. Mathenge received her medical degree and a Master of Science in Global Health from Duke University and completed her ophthalmology residency at Howard University. Farewell and best wishes to Dr. Rooney and welcome, Dr. Mathenge!

Photographs of Dr. David Rooney by Wendy Keeler.

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