From Adelaide Hills to Nepal hills: a journey to restore sight

Australian doctor Shane Durkin visited Nepal on a six-month Fred Hollows Foundation Fellowship that helps doctors continue Fred's legacy of eliminating avoidable blindness in developing countries.

Dr Durkin, from Adelaide in South Australia, will spend two months at Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology in Kathmandu, an organisation The Foundation partners with to restore sight to people living in hard-to-reach places.

The 32-year-old doctor, a trainee of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists, is learning about small incision cataract surgery.

"I'm keen to operate on really advanced cataracts where the benefit is greatest," Durkin says.

Dr Durkin recently spent time in Rolpa, a hill district about 280 kilometres west of Kathmandu.

"A number of people were carried in from their communities with very advanced cataracts," he says.

"It takes a whole family to look after the land, house and children, so to be able to give them back their independence is great."

The local community health centre was converted into an operating theatre and over the course of two days, 140 patients underwent surgery.

Dr Durkin said he was impressed by the facilities at the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology.

"Tilganga is a great institution and a terrific example of sustainable eye care in the community," he says.

"It's not just a surgical facility but Tilganga is involved in promoting eye health and training all levels of eye care professionals with good, modern facilities and operating equipment.

"The Fred Hollows intraocular lenses are made here and Tilganga's cornea grafting program is fantastic," Dr Durkin says.

During his time at Tilganga, Dr Durkin spent time within the Retina, Uveitis and Cornea clinics.

"In the Retina Unit, I saw a high level of diabetes-related eye disease. Getting people to better control their sugar levels to prevent eye and vision problems is important," he says.

As part of his Fellowship, Dr Durkin spent two months in Vietnam, mainly at the National Institute of Ophthalmology in Hanoi, before arriving in Nepal.

The final two months of his Fellowship will be spent working with Indigenous communities in Australia's Alice Springs.

The Fred Hollows Foundation Fellowship is offered in partnership with the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists.

>Learn about Fred's early work in Nepal.
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