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Global Perspectives | July/Aug '21

Academic Global Ophthalmology

At a Glance


  • Most global ophthalmology training focuses on comprehensive ophthalmology, as this need is the greatest in low-resource areas; however, other eye conditions still exist and must be addressed.
  • As access to comprehensive eye care improves, there has been a shift in focus toward training in subspecialty care to address global unmet needs for the management of glaucoma, corneal blindness, oculoplastics, and pediatrics.
  • The ability to bring subspecialty care to resource-limited regions requires a multifaceted approach that includes clinical and surgical training for local providers, patient education, the implementation of screening programs, reliable technology for imaging and diagnostics, and access to proper resources such as anesthesia and antibiotics.


  • The incoming generation of trainees is increasingly interested in participating in outreach programs. There are now approximately five global ophthalmology fellowship programs in the United States, and this number is expected to grow in the coming years.
  • In 2015, the Academic Global Ophthalmology program was created at Wills Eye to offer a structured training approach to physicians looking to work in resource-limited settings.
  • Fellows in the Academic Global Ophthalmology program spend 6 months at Wills Eye Hospital working with residents and 6 months dedicated to international work, which typically includes time spent with partner programs in Rwanda and Haiti.
  • The onset of COVID-19 allowed members of the fellowship program to reflect on their role in global ophthalmology, pivot toward meeting needs at the local level, and focus on finding effective ways to use virtual education to continue outreach work from a distance. The pandemic has shown that the use of telemedicine is likely to persist, especially within certain ophthalmic subspecialties.