In 2017, Dr. Ana Bastos de Carvalho and Dr. Eric Higgins founded the Global Ophthalmology (GO) division in our department. The goal of this outreach effort is to develop equity in eye care, not only with global partnerships, but also throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Several of their recent efforts are highlighted here and here.
The program is now starting to focus on education and our trainees, and we are excited to announce the establishment of a global ophthalmology track that we will start offering to an interested matched applicant each year.
Over the past decade, there has been a rise in the number of medical education training programs encouraging careers focusing on global health. These initiatives largely developed as a response to medical school graduates interested in addressing global health inequities. As stated in one editorial: “Global health is not about us; it is about others. The goal of investing in global health career pathways is to improve the health of disadvantaged populations, and it is a tangible investment in social justice, health equity, and the promise of the next generation of caring physicians.”
To help introduce our initiative – and keep this sporadic blog edgy – I’ve done a Q&A type conversation with Dr. Bastos de Carvalho.
What is “UK GO”? What’s your background and interest in global health?
The University of Kentucky Global Ophthalmology (UK GO) program was founded in 2017 by Dr. Ana Bastos de Carvalho and Dr. Eric Higgins, ophthalmologists at the UK Dept. of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences. Dr. Ramiro Maldonado more recently joined the program as director of Ecuador operations. Their life and work experiences have motivated them to build a program that would help improve eye care equity in Kentucky and internationally. Dr. Bastos de Carvalho has seen firsthand the impact of health inequities growing up in low- and middle-income countries, such as Brazil and Angola. The images she recalls as a child making trips to the hospital with her father, also an ophthalmologist, made an indelible impression that has lasted throughout her life. “I realized at a fairly young age that I wanted to go into medicine and do my part to bridge the gap for people who don’t have access to healthcare,” she says. As for Dr. Higgins, he believes his Appalachian roots and connections are what keep him focused on local underserved populations, while his year-long ophthalmology fellowship in Swaziland taught him the importance of cross-cultural eye care and education. Dr. Maldonado grew up and studied medicine in Ecuador. His strong roots to his homeland steered him towards developing strong relationships with educational and medical institutions in the country, with the goal of expanding ophthalmology education and eye care delivery to the poor in Ecuador.
What are some GO opportunities for residents?
UK GO has established several regional and international partnerships that may provide unique learning experiences to residents interested in Global ophthalmology. Regionally, UK GO directs a large academic-based network that provides diabetic retinopathy screening services to underserved populations and serve as the platform for high-quality implementation science research. Internationally, we have partnered with ophthalmology institutions in India, Ecuador and Haiti to build capacity in eye care in these countries. UK GO can provide our trainees with opportunities to experience global health delivery and research in different cultural and economic environments in all these systems.
What is the GO residency track?
The UK GO residency track is a structured experience that provides well-rounded education in global ophthalmology. To our knowledge we are the first ophthalmology residency in the country to offer this structured opportunity. Applicants selected to participate in the track will participate in and lead GO interventions regionally and internationally, interact with key players in global health, and complete GO scholarly projects. GO Track residents will have their international GO expenses covered and will receive a certificate at completion of the track.
What do you primarily want trainees to learn about global health care?
We hope UK GO can provide trainees with experiences that will allow cultivating a passion for reducing health disparities, cultural humility and awareness, and the tools to develop and sustain high quality symbiotic partnerships with institutions in low-resource settings.
Do you have any other resources or information for anyone interested in learning more?
We’d love to talk to anyone interested in applying to our GO residency track or in engaging in GO experiences during their training at UK. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.