Orbis doctors go from students to teachers

For many doctors, their journey with Orbis continues throughout their career. And Dr. Andrea Molinari and Dr. Ganesh are no different. After years of learning from their own Orbis mentors they are both passing on their skills to the younger generation.

Dr. Ganesh still remembers her third hospital-based training with Orbis, when Dr. Molinari was assigned as her mentor. Dr. Molinari had traveled all the way from Ecuador to Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital in New Delhi, India, as an Orbis Volunteer Faculty member, where Dr. Ganesh was working in one of the country’s only paediatric ophthalmology centres, funded in part by Orbis.

Doctors Ganesh and Molinari go over a case together

In north India at that time, there was no special focus on paediatric ophthalmology,” Dr. Ganesh recalls. She was hesitant to learn a new specialty which few doctors in India practiced, but said, “the specialty is important because paediatric eyes are different from adult eyes, and they need to be screened and managed differently.”

Now Dr. Ganesh is one of the most sought-after paediatric ophthalmologists in India and runs one of the top fellowships in the country. Dr. Ganesh remembers, “Dr. Molinari visited two times. The doctors used to literally hold my hand and teach me surgeries, which is something that I still cherish today. All my mentors trained me so patiently, which is something that I have given back to my students.

Dr. Ganesh and Dr. Molinari stand outside the operating room in India

Dr. Molinari related so well to Dr. Ganesh because she also understood what it’s like to pursue a specialty in a country where mentorship was hard to come by. She began her own relationship with Orbis when she met Dr. Eugene Helveston, the creator of Cybersight, through an online ophthalmology forum where users discussed cases.

Dr. Helveston reached out to Dr. Molinari and explained Cybersight, the new telemedicine platform that he had created and how she could use the site for personalised help on difficult cases. This was the beginning of Dr. Molinari’s 20-year relationship with Orbis. She started working with Dr. Helveston on Cybersight and quickly became a 'power user': “In total, I sent around 100 cases in those first few years, and it was fantastic! It changed the way I practiced medicine because I felt more reassured with each case with the support of somebody as well-known as Dr. Helveston.

Doctors Molinari and Ganesh take a selfie together in India during an Orbis programme

Dr. Molinari eventually made the leap from student to teacher, and began traveling with the Flying Eye Hospital to programs in India, as well as Costa Rica, Peru, and Syria. As her career with Orbis grew, she also became a mentor on Cybersight, developing lectures for the site’s paediatric ophthalmology courses.

Two decades later, Dr. Molinari still uses Cybersight to test and monitor the students in the fellowship she runs. “I started a direct fellowship program over 10 years ago, and all of my fellows have to complete Cybersight courses to get their diploma,” she explains. “I think that Cybersight is one of the best, if not the best, tool for teaching worldwide.”

Like Dr. Molinari, Dr. Ganesh uses Cybersight with her fellows, who come not just from India, but also Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal, and Vietnam. The fellowship, supported by Orbis, uses a “sandwich” model so that students don’t have to spend the entirety of their one- to two-year fellowship in New Delhi, but rather can complete some portions remotely via Cybersight.

For example, early in the program, they complete modules on Cybersight, and toward the end of the program, Dr. Ganesh can watch their surgeries from New Delhi through Cybersight’s distance learning; in-person training takes place in between. “Thanks to Cybersight, they are always there with me,” she says.

Gallery: we’ve been working with Dr. Ganesh for two decades

The pandemic has increased the demand for learning opportunities on Cybersight more than ever before. Recently, Dr. Molinari and Dr. Ganesh teamed up to deliver a Cybersight webinar on Duane’s Retraction Syndrome, a unique form of strabismus that is much more difficult to treat, that had over 1270 participants from 102 countries, a record number at the time!

Although both doctors’ offices were temporarily shut down during COVID-19, they were able to see patients through teleconsultations. Shroff Hospital, where Dr. Ganesh now practices, has done more than 800 teleconsultations during lockdown, and Dr. Ganesh has done more than 200 herself.

With phone cameras, patients can send doctors pictures of their eyes which can be examined remotely. “While these consultations aren’t as easy as those in the office,” Dr. Ganesh notes, “it is the future. The best thing is lockdown has made it so that now everybody will accept it.”

We want to thank both doctors for their contributions to fighting blindness by treating local patients and training the next generation of ophthalmologists. Changes in technology will bring about new methods of learning, but teaching and mentorship will always be one of the key ways we help improve access to quality eye care.


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