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Why is it important to train medical staff locally? Why is it important to train medical staff locally?

Why is it important to train medical staff locally?

Our founder Professor Fred Hollows strongly believed in training. He once said, “Teach the teachers first and then they will teach others.” Today, The Fred Hollows Foundation continues Fred’s vision and focuses in training eye health staff and surgeons in remote areas.

In Hong Kong when we need medical services, we just easily step out of our home to see a doctor. However this is not the case for many people in the world.

In Xingtang County, Hebei Province in China, there is no single surgeon who can perform cataract surgery. Although cataract surgery is common in many big cities in China, any cataract patients from this county of 500,000 people either need to wait for a surgeon to come, or they have to travel 60-70 KM to another county for an important, yet very simple operation.

Xingtang is only one example. In a country like China where there are many ethnic minorities, training eye doctors locally not only can help improve the provision of services, it also has other advantages:

1. Overcoming language and cultural barriers   

When sending an overseas doctor to a local community, it often takes an interpreter too. If anything happens in the middle of a surgery, the situation may be lost in translation. On the other hand, a local doctor who understands the culture and speaks the dialect allows smooth diagnosis and treatment. It also makes the patient feel comfortable and more calm.

2. Regular service is available

A visiting doctor helps to ease the pressure on eye services, but this is not a sustainable long-term solution. Their schedule may not satisfy the needs of the local people. If there is a resident doctor who can provide eye surgeries regularly, patients can seek help whenever they need it.

3. Strengthen local medical development

Doctors who undergo training need a lot of patients for them to become experts in the field. Doctors who stay with the hospital can regularly see a lot of patients and develop experience in the conditions of local people. This in turns benefits the development of local medical capacity.

Many doctors said to us that cataract surgery is a very satisfying surgery. In only 10 – 20 minutes a patient can have their sight restored and their lives completely turned around. It is the mission of The Fred Hollows Foundation to keep working with local partners in remote communities to enhance their eye health capacity.