Collaborations in Southeast Asia and American Samoa

Southeast Asia collaboration

OHSU Casey Eye Institute, in partnership with OHSU Global is working hard to bring positive change to eye care in Myanmar. Together, OHSU Casey Eye Institute, Mandalay Eye Hospital (Myanmar), Tipitaka Eye Hospital (Myanmar), Siriraj Medical School (Thailand) and BDMS/Bangkok Hospital System (Thailand) are collaborating to build a better future and brighter prognosis for the people of Myanmar.

Current state of eye health in Myanmar

In Myanmar, with a population of 55 million people, 500,000 people are blind, and approximately 10% of the rural adult population suffers from blindness. The prevalence of blindness in Myanmar is the highest of any country in Southeast Asia, but 90% of the blindness in Myanmar is preventable.  

With proper subspecialty care and corrective surgery, this grim state of eye health can improve. Prior to our program in Myanmar, there were only had two cornea, one oculoplastics, one retina, and two pediatric subspecialists to provide care to the entire population. Our program is the only training program aimed at increasing the number of ophthalmology subspecialists in Myanmar.  

Program focus areas

The collaboration focuses on three main programs:

Mid-level Ophthalmic Personnel Training Program

The Mid-level Ophthalmic Personnel Training Program provides training at Tipitaka Eye Hospital in Myanmar, a destination for many rural citizens who cannot afford medical care. This is a monk-led hospital working solely on charity care.

The ophthalmic technicians, nurses, orthoptists and faculty at OHSU Casey Eye Institute actively train nurse aids to become technicians through online courses, on-site training and fellowships training at Casey Eye Institute. One ore the focus areas is to train nurse aides to specialize in pediatric eye care. Nurse aids are supported in this training by traveling to Casey and through regularly scheduled trips for our specialists and trainers to travel to Myanmar.

Pediatric Vision Health Screening  Program

Effective detection and treatment of vision problems before age 5 can have tremendous impacts on children’s physical and behavioral development. OHSU Casey Eye Institute pediatric ophthalmologists have developed and establish a pediatric eye screening program at Tipitaka Eye Hospital in Myanmar delivered by local eye nurse assistants using resources provided by Myanmar Ministry of Health.  

With the addition of our Mid-level Ophthalmic Personnel program training and technology improvements, the eye-screening program will be an essential, sustainable element toward prevention of debilitating eye conditions in Myanmar. 

Ophthalmic Specialty Fellowship Program

An important element of this program is hosting fellows from Myanmar who are able to continue their training in subspecialty areas. This extensive training will be an essential to capacity building - developing local talent to provide complex oculoplastic and glaucoma care to those in need in Myanmar. To date, we have trained five specialists including; glaucoma, oculoplastics, neuro-ophthalmology, pediatric ophthalmology, and ocular training. Plans are already in motion to extend this opportunity to other qualified junior faculty in Myanmar, including subspecialists in uveitis, echography, glaucoma and medical retina.    

Biomedical engineering personnel training program

The goal is to improve the training and education of ophthalmic technicians at Tipitaka Eye Hospital to ensure that equipment is utilized to its fullest potential and is maintained in good working order. This is extremely important as Tipitaka Eye Hospital provides free eye care and relies on philanthropic gifts to maintain its operations. To help improve the utilization and maintenance of ophthalmic equipment, three technicians from Tipitaka Eye Hospital will visit OHSU Casey Eye Institute for two months to receive fundamental training in the maintenance and repair of essential medical equipment such as microscopes, cautery, autoclaves, and lighting systems.

Vision in American Samoa: Partnership across the Pacific

American Samoa collaboration

Working together, OHSU Casey Eye Institute and American Samoa are developing long-term strategies to educate and empower eye care professionals to deliver the best in modern eye care at L.B.J. Tropical Medical Center and address issues of preventable blindness in the territory.  

Current state of eye care in American Samoa

Geographic isolation and societal transitions weigh heavily on health and medical care in American Samoa. There are only two ophthalmologists in American Samoa, so patients experience a lack of access to doctors and the doctors experience limited resources and difficulty accessing continuing education opportunities to keep their skills up to date.  

Program focus areas

These areas of focus for Casey Eye Institute in American Samoa include: 

  • Providing the educational and logistical support for Samoan doctors to become high quality ophthalmologists - clinically, surgically, and as leaders in public health.  

  • Educational support onsite at OHSU and online for eye care professionals such as ophthalmic technicians and nurses that work alongside the eye doctors to deliver important components of exams, diagnostic tests, treatments and patient education.  

  • Support for biomedical engineers, who care for the instruments crucial studying the eye health of American Samoa.  

  • Providing education materials on diabetes, sun exposure, worker safety and other subjects to eye care advocates. With the power of information, nurses, community health workers and village leaders throughout the Islands would be able to: inform population about preventative eye care; inform the population about eye care services and improve recruitment of patients to clinical care centers; and increase the quality and efficiency of triage and referral for eye patients. 

Public health in American Samoa

On the horizon are opportunities to harness high tech ophthalmic imaging and data transfer systems to go out into rural areas to provide access to screening and referral resources for Samoans at risk of eye disease (e.g. people with diabetes).