On September 9th, the Comité National de Prévention de la Cécité (Committee for the Prevention of Blindness – CNPC) in Haiti held a stakeholder meeting in Port-au-Prince to discuss improvements in ophthalmology training. With most of Haiti’s 55 ophthalmologists concentrated in the capital city, only half of whom are surgically active, a substantial portion of Haiti’s population is left to suffer from untreated eye disease. Cataract, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, trauma and infection occur at global or elevated rates with patients having limited or no access to care.
The CNPC partnered with CBM, an international development organization focused on improving the lives of people affected by disabilities, to bring together the Haitian Ophthalmology community, Ministry of Health representatives, and global partners, including the Pan American Health Organization-WHO, International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, and the International Eye Foundation. Discussions concentrated on pragmatic methods for enhancing the quality of educational opportunities provided residents; utilizing local, regional, and global resources; prioritizing local disease ophthalmic disease burden for training; and leveraging and better documenting humanitarian mission trips.
Representing Mass Eye and Ear, Roberto Pineda, MD, presented curriculum and implementation recommendations for the Ophthalmology Department and Residency Program at Hôpital de l’Université d’Etat d’Haiti (HUEH). Dr. Pineda and other faculty from the Mass Eye and Ear, including Dr. Shizuo Mukai, have visited HUEH to work with the Ophthalmology residents and several recent graduates have come to Mass Eye and Ear for observorships. Among his recommendations, Dr. Pineda proposed an adaptation of the global competency standards set by the International Council of Ophthalmology’s residency curriculum, the regular scheduling of specialty clinics, and a mentorship program matching residents to faculty to provide practice management and professional development guidance. Another key element is the facilitation of clinical and surgical teaching by investing in educational equipment, including teaching scopes, video-recording capacity for the operating theatre, and improved Internet connectivity.
Haiti has been a frequent destination for humanitarian efforts, especially those related to vision care. Unfortunately, most of these trips are done outside of the existing ophthalmic public healthcare system and training programs. Integrating volunteer surgical faculty and leveraging global and regional vision resources offer opportunities for expanded educational programming.
Going forward, the Office of Global Surgery and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear has been asked to act in an advisory role for improving the Ophthalmology Residency program at HUEH. Focusing on priority topics (e.g., diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma), stakeholders will move forward on key priority areas, including the implementation of a competency-based curriculum, increased involvement of the local ophthalmology community, and development of a targeted resource and equipment ask.