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Partnerships Fuel Adaption and Corneal Health Care Impact During COVID-19

Partnerships Fuel Adaption and Corneal Health Care Impact During COVID-19

The COVID-19 crisis has disrupted corneal health care and eye bank operations around the world. Our “Stories of Adaptation” blog series highlights the innovative actions SightLife and our partners are taking to ensure steady progress toward our mission of eliminating corneal blindness by 2040 during a harrowing global pandemic.

For eight years, SightLife has partnered with Orbis, an international nonprofit that that takes a partnership-driven approach to building quality eye health capacity in-country. Likewise, SightLife centers partnerships in our approach to strengthening corneal health care systems, particularly in low- and middle-income regions (LMIRs) where the burdens of corneal blindness are greatest. Through the years, our organizations have gained tremendous insight from one another, building on each organization’s learnings to adapt and deepen our work catalyzing positive outcomes for the constituents we serve.

In 2003, Orbis launched Cybersight, a digital platform for eye care professionals globally that provides long-distance mentoring and peer learning opportunities through online courses, lectures, symposia, and webinars. Prior to COVID-19, SightLife’s partnership with Orbis focused on in-person training to build capacity of corneal care providers in LMIRs, but the realities of the pandemic rapidly compelled us to adapt our offering and more deeply engage Cybersight in service to our mission.

After executing a successful distance learning pilot in June 2020, SightLife and Orbis are expanding our virtual, educational offerings in corneal care. Since then, this important pivot has enabled thousands (Image 1) of corneal care providers to continue their learning and education despite the global pandemic – empowering them to transform even more lives through the gift of sight.

Graph representing the regions of online clinical training

In 2020, through five engaging webinar events, SightLife in partnership with Orbis’s Cybersight team has trained nearly 2,000 corneal care professionals from 123 countries (excluding United States, Canada, United Kingdom)[1].

The development of our virtual corneal care trainings would not have been possible without the generous time and talent of SightLife’s deep bench of esteemed and very dedicated corneal surgeons, including Dr. Roberto Pineda, Dr. James Lehmann, Dr. Rahul Pandit, Dr. Pravin Krishna Vaddavalli, Dr. Matthew Giegengack, Dr. Balamurali Ambati, and Dr. Virender Sangwan. Their trainings covered an array of techniques and issues, including problem solving DALK, corneal disease and dystrophy management, beginner to advanced DMEK, crosslinking approaches for keratoconus, and an introduction to SLET.

One silver-lining of our transition to digital learning is the unprecedented number of participants we have been thrilled to welcome, including from countries in which SightLife has not previously worked, such as Myanmar, Nigeria, the Philippines, Syria, Peru, and Argentina.

Moving forward, SightLife will continue to explore more in-depth distance learning opportunities, leveraging our learnings from the last six months to develop a more robust distance learning strategy and inform our 2021 training plans. Throughout, our goals are to (1) meet the needs of specific, high-demand geographies and (2) cover priority topics that allow trainees to advance their own practice in treating people who are corneal blind in their communities.

Stay tuned for more virtual corneal care learning opportunities from SightLife on Cybersight in 2021.  We’re exploring self-paced learning courses that will allow participating surgeons to leverage expert peer reviewed curriculum at a cadence of participation that works best for them.

If you are interested in contributing to this work or learning more about our programs online, please email us.

If you are interested in watching a previous virtual training, here below are links to all SightLife’s webinar recordings from 2020 that are now available in Cybersight’s library to watch on demand. Enjoy and Happy Learning!

[1] These countries were categorized into the seven regions based on The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB). This was developed using the existing geographical breakdown by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) who divide the regions into six distinct groups but do not separate the America’s from North and Latin America as IAPB does. For a breakdown of each country in these regions please check out the IAPB website

*Feature photo c/o Orbis International