CureBlindness | Dr. Sisay Bekele
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Dr. Sisay Bekele

profiles | May 31, 2019

“I hope that the needless blindness in our country is avoided through the concerted effort of us [local Ethiopian ophthalmologists] and the NGOs, like HCP, working on eye care"

So far in 2019, HCP has sponsored 206 training opportunities for eye care professionals, including subspecialty hands-on fellowships and observerships, cataract surgical skills training, and increasingly strengthening residency programs and resident surgical skills. These training opportunities allow doctors like Dr. Sisay Bekele to serve their local communities, strengthening the eye care system from within. Dr. Sisay is a Vitreoretinal Surgeon at Jimma University’s Department of Ophthalmology in Jimma, Ethiopia.

Born in the rural area of the Arsi Zone, located in the Oromia Region, Dr. Sisay went to the then Jimma Institute of Health Sciences (currently Jimma University) in 1994. He completed his training in 2002 and was then employed by the University as a faculty member in public health before joining the ophthalmology department in 2004. Dr. Sisay completed training and worked for six years before starting his vitreoretinal fellowship, which was completed in December 2018 with HCP support.

Dr. Sisay chose ophthalmology because of a family connection to blindness and inspirational leader in medical school.

“I went into ophthalmology because of personal and motivational reasons. My cousin was born blind and I witnessed the suffering she went through. The other was an experience during my training in medical school. Our instructor for ophthalmology, Dr. Yeneneh Mulugeta, was very passionate and caring - he impressed upon us the magnitude of eye problems in the country [Ethiopia] and the need for more ophthalmologists.”

Dr. Sisay first encountered HCP in 2015 at an outreach event with HCP Partner, Jimma University.

“I helped the ophthalmology department organize a campaign in Negelle Borena and at Yabelo hospital. It was fully sponsored by HCP and I was able to meet Dr. Geoff [Tabin] during the campaign. We discussed the need to train a retina specialist in our department and I was given the opportunity to get trained. I was sent to the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology for 10 months, Wills Eye Hospital for one month and Moran Eye Center for one month for vitreoretinal disease and surgical care.

My training at Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology was hands-on and the faculty was very supportive. I was taught basic vitreoretinal surgery skills and I believe this will help improve the quality of care for patients and develop a vitreoretinal center in my department.”

When looking to the future of eye care in Ethiopia, Dr. Sisay sees a path led by partnerships with NGOs.

“I hope that the needless blindness in our country is avoided through the concerted effort of us [local Ethiopian ophthalmologists] and the NGOs, like HCP, working on eye care. I also hope that the capacity building HCP is doing for institutions and personnel will transform the landscape. Hopefully, building centers where medical fellowships are offered within Ethiopia - thereby increasing the access to training for ophthalmologists will also improve the quality of eye care. I am still at a very early stage of my professional development and the continued support of partners like HCP is crucial.”

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