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HCP Cureblindness Launches the Virtual Classroom to Eliminate Gaps in Ophthalmology Residency Education

news | Feb 27, 2023

Since 1994, HCP has directly supported the training of over 18,000 ophthalmic personnel from 19 countries, either onsite at their home institutions, or at one of our partner training facilities.

Eye care has evolved by leaps and bounds since we began our work. Yet one tremendous hurdle remains: there are simply not enough ophthalmologists to treat the number of needlessly blind patients in low to middle income countries.

The Problem: High Rates of Blindness, Low Number of Ophthalmologists

In Ethiopia alone, there are approximately 59 ophthalmologists for every 1 million patients.

These ophthalmologists are swamped, and yet they are expected to mentor and teach aspiring ophthalmologists – or residents – on top of their day-to-day patient care duties. Residents are often used as extra hands to help with the high volume of patient care at the expense of their education.

The result is that ophthalmologists and residents alike are overwhelmed, under-resourced, and burnt out. Unfortunately, some residents burn out entirely before they even begin practicing, which only worsens the problem because young doctors are turned away from the field further contributing to this shortage.

Our Solution: An 18-Month Virtual Classroom for Ophthalmology Residents

Last fall, HCP launched our first-ever virtual program for ophthalmology residents. The course, which runs for 18 months, provides students in Nepal, Ghana, and Ethiopia with educational support and mentorship from teachers around the world.

The international faculty are entirely volunteer-based, meaning that they have the time and bandwidth to engage residents. Not only does this free up local ophthalmologists to do their essential work, it also provides students with a diversity of perspectives and a variety of clinical expertise they wouldn’t have access to in a traditional classroom.

Of course, not everything can be taught online. That’s why the program includes a 3-day intensive live course, where students can review materials with faculty in person and receive hands-on practice with state-of-the-art technologies. We look forward to the first live intensive coming up in March of 2023.

Bridging the Gap

A foundational part of HCP’s mission is to build capacity for local partners and strengthen eye care infrastructure in low and middle income countries.

Our virtual classroom is designed to do exactly that by relieving local ophthalmologists of some of their burden and empowering residents with a wealth of knowledge and resources from leading ophthalmologists around the world.

HCP’s long-term goal is to hand this program off to local stakeholders so that they can take ownership and train world-class eye surgeons who are passionate about the work they’re doing to uplift their local communities.

As HCP’s Global Clinical Consultant, Dr. Ashiyana Nariani puts it, “This classroom will serve as a bridge to close the gap in educational disparities between the United States and the developing world.”

While the program is still in its infancy, HCP has high hopes that residents will learn, and local ophthalmologists will teach more effectively as a result.

Stay tuned for more information on the program’s structure and success.

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