Trainee Profile

Dr. Helen Sisay

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“My future plan is first to serve my community, to give sight, to preserve visual function, to work on preventable blindness, and to transfer my knowledge by teaching”

The shortage of properly trained ophthalmologists is one barrier in efforts to halt and reduce the backlog of cataract blindness in the developing world. HCP combats this issue by offering top-rated education and training opportunities at all levels of ophthalmology. To date, we have trained 232 ophthalmic professionals from Ethiopia and we continue to increase these opportunities every year. One such training success story is Dr. Helen Sisay, an Ophthalmologist at the Wolaita Sodo University Secondary Eye Care Unit in Ethiopia’s SNNP Region.

Born in Gondar, in Northern Ethiopia and raised in the capital city of Addis Ababa, Dr. Sisay completed her Ophthalmology Residency at Gondar University in January of 2017. She chose ophthalmology after experiencing a cataract outreach first hand.

“Five years ago, I was working at a Catholic missionary hospital in southern Ethiopia and there was a cataract campaign and they needed a general practitioner to help with medical screenings. While I was a volunteer, I got the chance to observe the cataract surgery of a bilaterally cataract blind (both eyes) patient. I was really impressed, and when I saw the immediate postoperative outcome the next day it gave me real satisfaction.”

Through HCP, Dr. Sisay has attended one month of residency training at Yitzhak Shamir Medical Center just outside of Tel Aviv, Israel. During this time, she trained in anterior segment, oculoplasty, retina, glaucoma and pediatrics. Dr. Sisay hopes to complete her subspecialty in pediatric ophthalmology if given the chance.

“I was especially impressed in the procedures not performed in Ethiopia, because I had only read about them in textbooks. I also gained important knowledge from the experience, ophthalmologists, residents and through working in a different hospital set up.”

At the HCP-supported August 29 - September 4 outreach event with Arbaminch Hospital, Dr. Sisay performed 150 sight restoring cataract surgeries. While there, she had the opportunity to work and train with HCP Co-Founder Dr. Geoffrey Tabin.

“At the Arba Minch campaign I was really happy, because I got the chance to contribute and I also learned a lot of surgical skills from Dr. Geoff.”

The Arba Minch outreach resulted in 1,090 sight restoring surgeries, including 8 cornea and 1,082 cataract surgeries. Combine this with the high-volume outreach at Quiha Zonal Hospital in Mekelle, Ethiopia the week before - where 1,365 surgeries were provided - a total of 2,455 surgeries were performed in just 13 days, a record for HCP.

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