Sightsavers India Fellowship Program

April 2024

A Fellow’s Journey with Sightsavers India Fellowship Program

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Sightsavers India, ever since the launch of the India Fellowship Program is committed to groom the young ophthalmologists into promising and skilled professionals. The Fellowship, an innovative course of mentoring and surgical exposure, is designed in a way that gives an opportunity to master the craft as a clinician and a surgeon and expands their perspectives on rural eye health.

The context

Blindness due to cataract and refractive errors is still a major public health concern in India despite major advances in affordable technology and innovative models of eye health care delivery. High volume centers of excellence are available in a few locations to provide state of the art care to all, whereas many rural and semi-urban areas remain deprived of basic health care.  The surgical treatment is relatively safe and very effective in restoring the vision loss due to the disease, but it requires a well-equipped facility and a trained and motivated team to provide it.

Shortage of trained eye care professionals, particularly in rural areas results in delay in diagnosis and treatment, which can lead to further vision loss. Training of eye care professionals and encouraging them to work in rural areas can help to ensure equitable and impactful eye healthcare services across the most underserved parts of the country.

Fellowship goals

Sightsavers Fellowship is a promising career opportunity for ophthalmologists. It aims to take selected fellows through an exciting journey of 24 months.

The fellows experience a structured skill enhancement and mentoring process covering not only clinical and surgical ophthalmology but also managerial and holistic life skills. After a rapid four-month training on SICS, the fellows are placed in the peripheral centers of one of the 8 states – Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha. The process involves skills up-gradation components and personal interactions with eminent leaders in eye care and development sector.

Every stage of the program helps in optimizing learning to help the fellows transform into all-rounder seasoned professionals. The fellows receive an attractive appreciative stipend through the fellowship period.

Mr. RN Mohanty, CEO Sightsavers India, shares, “With passing years, the popularity of the program is increasing among the young and aspiring ophthalmologists. As a promising career opportunity, it is designed in such a way that fresh post-graduates with very little experience get transformed into well rounded surgeons. During the journey of 24 months, our Fellows get trained and are mentored by the best in the business. They get a chance to master the craft as a clinician and a surgeon and gain exposure to managing community-based hospital, participate in community-based surveys, develop skills, interests and goals while working with senior leadership. These experiences contribute to a comprehensive understanding of the entire eye-health landscape.”

Sightsavers India Fellowship Program

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Fellows speak:

“Sightsavers India Fellowship is a great program and of a very different kind. You must think out-of-the-box to endure all kinds of personality and surgical challenges to adapt to the given situation giving a wholesome experience. Being part of this fellowship has made me surgically confident while performing small incision cataract surgeries (SICS), a better clinician and developed my hospital management skills set. I hope to impact the lives of underserved population for the better in the future.”

Dr Saamragye Srivastava, Sightsavers Fellow

“Sightsavers India Fellowship Program is designed to instill confidence in us and monitors our growth throughout the fellowship. My surgical training started from the first month where initially I was supervised to perform small incision cataract surgery (SICS) and gradually started performing independently. I got the opportunity to participate in RAAB survey, which was conducted in Samastipur, Bihar. Posting at the peripheral location is vital in building our capacity and skills not just as a surgeon but also as a rounded professional. Joining this fellowship will help the future fellows to become an independent cataract surgeon and provide opportunity for them to grow as a comprehensive ophthalmologist.”

Dr Faizah Shahreer Ahmad, Sightsavers Fellow

“Sightsavers fellowship program started with four months training at a leading eye institute where I could improvise upon my clinical and surgical skills while learning directly from the experts. I have gained a lot of confidence in doing cataract surgery as well as managing outpatients. This program has helped me not only with the surgical training but also to emerge as a more confident and resilient person. Participation in Samastipur RAAB was a lifechanging experience for me wherein I witnessed challenges faced by rural poor to access healthcare. I am thankful to Sightsavers for all the support and encouragement provided to me during the whole process. I recommend this fellowship program to anyone looking to improve his or her clinical and surgical skills and to develop as a confident and a well-rounded eye surgeon.

Dr Mohd Saif, Sightsavers Fellow 

“I am a part of Sightsavers fellowship and am deeply grateful to have got this opportunity. It has been an amazing experience in terms of growth, learning and overall self-development. From the outstanding training to RAAB survey to host placement, I have gained a lot of experience in terms of surgeries and academic skills. Constant support via regular reviews, mental resilience workshop and the most co-operative environment has made this journey so smooth and cherish able. I would recommend my co-ophthalmologists to join this fellowship to enhance their surgical learning and enrich themselves with ground level experience of the ophthalmology practice in India.”

Dr Aniza Nagpal, Sightsavers Fellow 

Read about Dr Ralte's Fellowship experience

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