In just three years since its inauguration in October 2017, the University of Lahore Teaching Hospital (ULTH) hit an impressive performance of successfully treating more than 48,000 eye patients by October 2020. The Comprehensive Eye Care Program (CECP) managed by the Ophthalmology Department is contributing immensely in the reduction of preventable blindness within and outside Pakistan. With a broader goal of upgrading the Ophthalmology Department into a Centre of Excellence, CECP covers a range of services in the dimensions of promotion, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and human resource development executed in hospital services, outreaches and training of allied personnel.
By October 2020, CECP, a project also supported by the Al-Baseer Foundation had conducted 2,071 eye surgeries and treated over 46,896 cases at the outpatient department (OPD) of ULTH. Within the same span of time, 270 national outreach activities have been held in which 38,759 patients were screened, 9,069 glasses and 16,843 medicines were donated to patients, and 9,430 cases were referred to specialized hospitals for extra management.
Atta & Tanmiyah, a Saudi Arabian-based Non-Governmental Organization, sponsored 300 surgeries out of the overall total conducted up to October 2020. The recent 226 eye operations and 2,233 screening cases were conducted in Talla Gang and Okara on October 27-28, 2020.
According to Dr. Muhammad Khizar Bashir (Project Director, CECP and HoD Optometry and Vision Sciences) who spoke to the writer on October 27, 2020, CECP is an admirable and vivid success story of academia-industry/field linkage that is worth replicating.
“Conducting over 2,000 surgeries and benefiting close to 100,000 people is a great achievement for us. We started with two rooms and a handful of staff. In the initial days, we could only handle three operations per month. But, now Alhamdulillah, we are registering over 80 surgeries per month”, he said.
“On top of restoring the sight of thousands of people, we are offering clinical training to many students of the Optometry and Vision Sciences degree program at the UOL. The students get practical field training at the Ophthalmology Dept. and also through the national outreaches organized in the form of camps and community eye care clinics”, he added.
Dr. Khizar said, “Based on our field and classroom experiences, in 2019 between July 29 and August 2, we organized a training workshop on Inclusive Eye Health (IEH) Module aimed at incorporating IEH in the study curriculum of undergraduates offering Optometry and Vision Sciences degree program”.
Al-Baseer Foundation in collaboration with Atta & Tanmiyah and University of Lahore also screened 23,482 patients and conducted 2,608 eye surgeries in Somalia, Chad, Uganda and Tanzania in the last two years.
2,000 surgeries celebrated, Dr. Khizar applauded
With the aim to celebrate the milestones and recognize staff efforts at the Ophthalmology Dept. since 2017, a colorful event was held on November 27, 2020 at the UCMD Auditorium, ULTH. Prof. Dr. Mujahid Kamran (Rector), Prof. Dr. Shahid Mahmud Malik (Pro-Rector Health Sciences) and Ms. Ammara Awais (Director, OSA) attended this celebration as guests of honor. Dr. Sikandar Afzal (Associate Dean/Clinical Director, ULTH), senior medical workers at ULTH, CECP staff and students of Optometry and Vision Sciences were part of the audience.
In his multiple capacities of Project Director, CECP, HoD Optometry and Vision Sciences and CEO Al-Baseer Foundation, Dr. Khizar gave an elaborate PPT presentation in which he highlighted the CECP scope of work, trends of performance and successes since 2017. He also shared the key national and international milestones of the collaborative efforts between ULTH, Al-Baseer Foundation and Atta & Tanmiyah. He illustrated that apart from CECP which is jointly operated at ULTH, Al-Baseer Foundation also runs an Eye Hospital in Karachi, Primary Eye Care Clinics, and thousands of outreaches.
Prof. Dr. Kamran congratulated the CECP team for the registered achievements and highlighted the value of sight in human life. Prof. Dr. Shahid Malik equally appreciated the efforts of Dr. Khizar and his team members and guaranteed the UOL’s Board of Governors’ support to the project. “The progress that we have achieved in these few years, is remarkable. I am sure that our goal of achieving an Ophthalmology Center of Excellence will be reached soon. I am here to assure you of my full support and also that of BoG”, he remarked.
Ms. Ammara Awais expressed gratitude to Dr. Khizar and his team members for restoring the eyesight of thousands of people within and beyond Pakistan. “When I visited Uganda recently, we came across an old nun in Masaka who testified and acknowledged the efforts of CECP. Her sight was restored by a Muslim white man from Pakistan during an eye camp organized in 2019. The story of that old lady is attesting to your huge contribution in saving human life”, she said.
She appreciated the progress at Ophthalmology Dept. and at ULTH generally. She underscored the need to offer proper training to the students so that they could continue as being ambassadors of the University in particular and the Ummah at large.
A couple of shields were distributed to guests of honor, senior medical workers, CECP staff, and to the students of Optometry Dept. who participated in CECP camps and OPD at ULTH.