NEW YORK, NY (April 2012) - Glaucoma is an eye disease that affects African-Americans and Africans at a disproportionately higher rate and more severely than others. In Nigeria, a nation of 155,000,000 with Africa's largest black population, there are only 450 ophthalmologists and none formally subspecializing in glaucoma.
Sola Olawoye, MD, an ophthalmologist in post-graduate training at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary and a woman accustomed to â€œfirsts,â€ is studying to change that.
Dr. Olawoye is the first doctor to receive two International Council of Ophthalmology fellowships, and is in New York for further study with Robert Ritch, MD, the Shelley and Steven Einhorn Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology, Surgeon Director and Chief, Glaucoma Services, at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary. Dr. Olawoye was also recently the first doctor from Nigeria to present research at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), the world's largest scientific ophthalmology organization.
As Director of International Training at NYEE, Dr. Ritch notes â€œThe goal of ICO fellowships are to help promising young ophthalmologists from developing nations acquire specialized diagnostic, medical and surgical techniques which will better preserve and restore vision to millions in their home countries.â€
â€œI am elated to have an opportunity to learn so much, particularly about the exfoliation syndrome, which had not been reported before in my country,â€ said Dr. Olawoye. She will return to practice at the University College Hospital in Idaban, a city of more than 3 million (and a couple hours from the sprawling city of Lagos, with 15,000,000). â€œWhile New York moves very fast,â€ she noted, â€œI am most impressed by the caring shown by everyone and concern about the quality of their work. These are things I will also take back with me.â€
She will teach the subspecialty of glaucoma to fellow ophthalmologists as well as continue medical missions into villages.
In addition to the rich clinical experience - observing surgical cases with advanced techniques, honing skills with state of the art imaging equipment and research with world-famous mentors - Dr. Olawoye is enthusiastic about opportunities for networking on an international basis and forging supportive professional ties with physicians from America and around the globe. â€œI am grateful to have met and learned from Drs. Robert Ritch, Jeffrey Liebmann, Celso Tello, Christopher Teng, Sung Chul Park and Gustavo De Moraes; all glaucoma experts from around the world. I look forward to continuing these relationships when I return to Nigeria.â€
In rare downtime, Dr. Olawoye enjoys the tourist attractions of New York City but of course looks forward to returning home to her family and three children. Then, for the next few months she will be the hands-on parent as it is her husband's turn to take an international fellowship in surgery.
ICO and other international fellowships are thus educating an increasing number of sophisticated medical and surgical subspecialists throughout the developing world.
About ICO Fellowships
International Council of Ophthalmology (ICO) fellowships are considered among the most prestigious international training awards in ophthalmology. There are approximately 60 ICO Fellowships around the world each year, and NYEE now trains one of the largest number of international eye fellows of any medical center.
Creating an international bond over imaging are, from left, Sung Chul Park, MD; Dr. Olawoye; Rafael Furlanetto, MD, glaucoma fellow from Sao Paulo, Brazil; Daniel Su, a medical student from Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, and Reshma Mehendale, MD, glaucoma fellow from Mumbai, India.