Improving Vision Care in China

UCSF ophthalmologists are improving quality of care for vision patients by teaching and consulting at vision clinics across China.

It isn’t every day that ophthalmologists see their names dancing across a Jumbotron. This bold welcome met two UCSF clinician scientists last fall at the equivalent of a county hospital in Changchun, China. Vitreoretinal specialist Jay Stewart, MD, and oculofacial plastics specialist M. Reza Vagefi, MD, were the honored guests at a three-day teaching event.

Advancing Training, Care, and Understanding

Drs. Stewart and Vagefi spent one day consulting on how to help patients with complex vision disorders, and another day in surgery, teaching advanced methods. “I was able to share a method for approaching the orbit that avoids leaving a scar on the skin,” says Dr. Vagefi. A third day was devoted to theory and clinical application.

Dr. McLeod offers expertise on a difficult case.

“This was our second trip,” says Dr. Vagefi, “and each has offered a unique learning experience. In China, patients are in charge of their own medical charts and carry them from doctor to doctor. For the most part, only senior ophthalmologists perform eye surgeries.”

“After our first visit, we recommended a video system be installed in the operating room as a teaching tool,” adds Dr. Stewart. “This will help advance the skills of younger ophthalmologists.”


Initiative to Improve Quality

These trips are part of a larger initiative to lift the quality of care for Chinese vision patients. In China, ophthalmologists often lack access to training on par with the best available in the United States and Europe, with only a handful of outstanding vision centers providing comprehensive training.

Organized by the nonprofit Lifeline Express, Western specialists help fill gaps in professional knowledge at interested hospitals and clinics and recommend improvements. Pediatric specialist Creig Hoyt, MD, was the first UCSF ophthalmologist to participate in the program, and he soon interested others.

Chinese ophthalmologists consult with Dr. Hoyt.

This year Dr. Hoyt will teach at a clinic on the Tibetan plateau. Glaucoma specialist Ying Han, MD, pediatric ophthalmologist Alexandra de Alba Campomanes, MD, and Stephen D. McLeod, MD (cornea, external disease, and refractive surgery), have also led professional development missions.


Inspiring Deeper Learning

“The impact of this work continues to unfold,” says Dr. Vagefi. “After our first visit, a junior ophthalmologist traveled to Shanghai, inspired to seek additional training in orbital surgery.”

These UCSF ambassadors are establishing ties to vision institutions across China and offering invitations for ophthalmologists to apprentice as international fellows at UCSF. This year Drs. de Alba and Hoyt will host visiting Chinese scholars whom they met while working for Lifeline Express.