The 3-Month IOFF-Subspecialty Fellowship is one of two fellowship programs that the International Ophthalmological Fellowship Foundation e. V. (IOFF) supports in partnership with the Ophthalmology Foundation. For young ophthalmologists from low-resource and underserved countries, the fellowship is instrumental in helping them to acquire knowledge and skills that can be taken back to their native countries.
During their participation in the fellowship program, IOFF Fellows gain new insights as well as experience regarding ophthalmic treatments/procedures, learn new approaches and problem-solving skills and will ultimately leave with a better skill-set to feel more confident to treat patients in their home country.
Below, we share some inspiring words from Berthold Seitz, MD, Ophthalmology Foundation Board Fellowships Director, Vice-Chair of the IOFF and Director for IOFF Subspecialty Fellowships.
Given the fact that in most countries residency training in Ophthalmology is strongly differing, “a personalized education,” tailored to the individual needs of young Ophthalmologists from low resource and underserved communities and their communities, is a crucial factor for the principle of “helping people to help themselves.” The IOFF-Subspecialty Program does this by inviting the candidates to specifically address their individual/local and recurring challenges during their fellowship stays in the host center.
It is vital to advocate the benefit of giving ophthalmologists from low resource countries the opportunity to gain specialist knowledge, which will improve eye care in their home country. Committed ophthalmologists receive the specialist education they want and need without having to leave their home country permanently (specialized training). This helps filling in the gaps, helps reducing referral to more advanced Ophthalmologists, and thus leads to an enhancement of eye care delivered, with the ultimate goal of preventing blindness and preserve vision. Furthermore, it is important to raise awareness regarding fellowships and expand host center availability. The more people know that these fellowships exist and what they offer, the more support we can get to help educate ophthalmologist from low resource countries.
Unique about the IOFF Subspecialty Fellowships Program is that IOFF Fellows are committed to return to their home country, to resume their position in order to apply and teach what they have learned. Chairpersons hold the position of the IOFF Fellow until their return. This is crucial because it ensures capacity building in the home clinic, instead of further weaken the medical system in the home community. This way, IOFF can help and enable more ophthalmologists in low resource and underserved areas to help themselves and also transfer their knowledge within their home country/area to other young ophthalmologists. The better the ophthalmic knowledge, the better the medical care.
IOFF offers short ways of communication as well as a quick and easy application process. One key point of contact (Cordula Gabel-Obermaier) from application until the start of the fellowship program makes communication for the fellows and host centers easier.
Hosts can engage in charity work without much effort – as IOFF helps with administration, identification of the guest doctor and funding of the fellowship stay. Our host centers are committed not to charge for tutorial and administration.
Juniors in the host center can train their teaching skills and connect with IOFF Fellows from abroad. Often this leads to long lasting friendships and can create an atmosphere/tradition of mutual support and networking. It raises more awareness and reflection of how low resource and underserved areas function and the importance to deliver specialist ophthalmic education. Hosts may even develop new training strategies by teaching ophthalmologists from different backgrounds and countries. It is not just about medical education but also gaining knowledge about the way of living, rituals and attitudes among young eye doctors in various regions of the world.
IOFF Fellows gain new insights as well as experience regarding ophthalmic treatments/procedures, learn new approaches and problem-solving skills and will ultimately leave with a better skill-set to feel more confident to treat patients in their home country.
In 2023 a record number very close to 100 3-month fellowships will be awarded. IOFF Fellows come from 57 countries, ranging from Afghanistan to Yemen. To support these fellows, there are also 91 host centers located across Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Cameroon, China, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Morocco, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Portugal, UK, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tunisia, Turkey, and the US.
Visit IOFF to learn more.