Taking Clinical Trainings Virtual in Partnership with Orbis
Stories of Adaption Amidst 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 despite a harrowing global pandemic.
Since 2009, SightLife has offered a range of peer learning opportunities for corneal surgeons and ophthalmic personnel from low- and middle-income regions (LMIRs) to bolster their skills and treatment of corneal blindness in their communities. Traditionally, these trainings have been taught in person by members of SightLife’s global volunteer faculty, who work side-by-side with local partners to share their expertise and latest knowledge in surgical care.
From lectures and facilitated discussions to hands-on skills transfer, each peer-reviewed learning opportunity – tailored to the needs of each participant cohort – offers invaluable experience for healthcare professionals to bring new techniques into their practice. They are also supported by partnerships with local institutions, businesses and other non-profits around the world. For more than seven years, SightLife has partnered with Orbis – an international non-profit that brings people together to fight avoidable blindness and build quality eye health capacity in-country. Through this valued partnership, in which SightLife serves as the corneal care specialist, we’ve expanded our reach and helped integrate corneal health into eye health systems improvements around the globe.
In the era of COVID-19, these in-person trainings are not possible. And yet, because we believe every patient should have access to quality comprehensive corneal care, and it’s in our DNA to innovate and adapt when needed, SightLife Clinical Programs is going virtual – with the help of Orbis.
By leveraging Orbis’s online learning platform, Cybersight, SightLife piloted our first clinical training webinar in May. Hosted by volunteer faculty member Dr. Roberto Pineda of Massachusetts Ear and Eye and Harvard Medical School, the webinar explored questions on deep anterior lamellar keratoplasty, also known as DALK, which is a partial thickness corneal transplant. Compared to a penetrating keratoplasty (PK), a full thickness transplant that’s the more common transplant method in LMIRs, DALK shortens healing time and reduces risk of the transplanted cornea being rejected.
To evaluate the new virtual training’s feasibility and user experience, SightLife and Orbis piloted it with a small group of healthcare professionals located in, and participating from, the U.S., U.K., and Nigeria. Not only did all participants and volunteer faculty deem the pilot a resounding success, insights gleaned from participants are helping us to further refine and ultimately broaden the scope of our future online offerings.
With more than half of the world’s corneal blind with no access to a sight-restoring transplant or appropriate corneal care and treatment, SightLife is committed to adapting, and moreover, innovating our programs to meet the evolving capacity-building needs of our constituents in the era of COVID-19.
Despite the pandemic, our mission continues at pace and we are grateful to Orbis for their partnership.
Enhancing the distance learning opportunities of our clinical training programs will rapidly expand our volunteer faculty’s connection with corneal care providers worldwide – helping to improve the sight-restoring surgical and patient outcomes for millions of people suffering needlessly in the dark.
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A special thank you Dr. Roberto Pineda, who has served as a volunteer faculty member since 2014, delivering SightLife training programs across geographies, including India and Mexico. Your contributions are helping us to pioneer new solutions for training programs around the world!