The Orbis Approach: Specialist Training in Ethiopia

December 2017

Lack of adequate training for healthcare professionals is a problem around the world. Providing first-rate training is essential to solving this problem, and it's a primary component of our efforts.

The Ripple Effect

Donal Brosnahan

Irish ophthalmologist Donal Brosnahan, has been a member of the Orbis Volunteer Faculty since 2006, when he first visited the Flying Eye Hospital in Addis Ababa.

Over the past eleven years Donal has returned to Ethiopia ten times. What he left behind is even more valuable than the sight regained by the children he personally treated. During this 11 year period subspecialty training in paediatric ophthalmology and strabismus has been delivered to 6 trainees who continue to work in Ethiopia. In recent years he has been joined by Tony McAleer who has provided training to residents and optometry students.

“The purpose is to teach skills”, says Dr Brosnahan who practices in Dublin, Ireland. “Planning for a hospital based programme begins many weeks before the visit. The trainees are identified and learning goals agreed. Clinical details of the cases being considered for the program are forwarded to me by the trainee via Orbis Cybersight. If the case fulfils the identified learning goals it is accepted for the program. Usually 35 cases are accepted. On the first day of the program all cases are screened again and surgery is scheduled for the following 5 days. The goals of the program have been to develop 3 centres for paediatric ophthalmic surgery one in Addis, Gondar in the north and Hawassa in the south”.

Over the years, Donal has also helped educate operating room nurses and primary care physicians in techniques as well as instructing public health workers in screening and follow up skills for patients in remote villages and underserved urban areas.

It is a full, 360-degree training effort, a comprehensive approach that recognises you have to have it all to make surgery possible. Anaesthesia, nursing, equipment maintenance, and supplies as well as surgical skills. One element is not enough to make the whole thing work.

Dr Donal Brosnahan

Volunteer Faculty and Orbis Ireland Board Member

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The systematic approach of improving eye care that Dr Brosnahan experienced exemplifies the Orbis philosophy.

Dr Brosnahan spends a week every year volunteering for Orbis in Ethiopia. “It gives me an opportunity to give back”. It also deepens his appreciation for the high level of skill of his colleagues in Ireland. “You take it for granted that expert anaesthesia, nursing support and equipment maintenance will be there, but they aren’t everywhere”.

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