Cambodia neuro approach a no-brainer

University of Adelaide Professor John Crompton was recently on the ground in Cambodia to launch three Sight For All Neuro-Ophthalmology Fellowships, an in-country training program that has already proved highly successful in Vietnam and Myanmar.

Cambodian Neuro Ophthalmology Fellows, Drs Many Lim, Pagna Heang and Kossama Chukmol.

When Cambodian Drs Many Lim, Pagna Heang and Kossama Chukmol first sat down to begin their Neuro-Ophthalmology Fellowship course they were given a 60-minute exam on the subject.

That happened on Day One of Sight For All’s recent five-day, in-house Fellowship course held in early July at the Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital (KSFH) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

You might think that unfair, perhaps even a little brainless, giving new students a test on neurology, a subject they had not even begun to study, on the first day of a two-year course.

But, as the lecturer launching the course on behalf of Sight For All the University of Adelaide’s Professor John Crompton likes to say, it was a “no-brainer”.

He and his cohort of fellow Visionaries are very mindful that there are currently no Neuro-Ophthalmologists in Cambodia. Their work will change that.

Prof Crompton was on the ground in Cambodia to turn that around in his own inimitable fashion, launching a course that follows a similar pattern to highly successful in-country Sight For All Neuro-Ophthalmology Fellowship previously conducted in Hanoi, Vietnam and Yangon, Myanmar.

“It is intended that these fellows will go on to set up the first Neuro-Ophthalmology clinics in Cambodia and begin their own Fellowship training, eventually spreading Neuro-Ophthalmological expertise throughout their country,” Prof Compton said.

“Most of the Sight For All Visionaries who have volunteered to teach in Cambodia taught courses in Vietnam and Myanmar and were keen to continue.”

The initial Neuro-Ophthalmological exam – based on accepted educational principles – taken by the new Cambodian fellows will ultimately inspire the students, Prof Crompton said.

 “This initial exam will not be marked but the papers will be given back to the Fellows at the end of the course when the exam is repeated and marked, thus showing how much they have learnt. An exam is set on each of the 12 modules,” he said.

“The exam plus the preferred answers and suggested marking scheme are forwarded to the next Visionary who conducts this written exam on Day 1 on the next visit, thus giving the Fellows two months to read up and revise the topic.

“Each consecutive touring Visionary sends me a copy of the answers plus a question and answer plan and both of us mark the papers separately and the marks are averaged.

“It’s designed to inspire, to show the Fellows how much they have learnt,” he said.

That’s not the end of Prof Crompton’s inspiration. His broad sweep of volunteer work has inspired others for more than two decades.

For Sight For All, enlisting Prof Crompton was again, a “no-brainer”.

When asked to become involved in the Cambodia Fellowship program, Prof Crompton didn’t have to think twice.

“After 20 years’ working with ASPECT projects for three weeks every year  in the Pacific Islands: Melanesia and the atolls, plus Army Health projects in indigenous centres in the remote Northern Territory, helping Sight For All in this program was a ‘no-brainer’,” Prof Crompton said.

“Director of the KSFH and Chair of the Ophthalmologic Society of Cambodia, Professor Meng, requested Sight For All to organise an in-house Fellowship Course in Neuro-Ophthalmology.

“Prof Meng selected three Cambodian ophthalmology graduates to be trained, Drs Kossama, Many and Pagna.

“I recruited 12 ophthalmologists and neurologists with a primary sub-specialty interest in Neuro-Ophthalmology from Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom to take tours of teaching duty in Cambodia as volunteer Visionaries and arranged for each to teach a major sub-topic,” he said.

The Sight For All Neuro-Ophthalmology Fellowship program will have a significant impact on eye health in Cambodia.

“One of the most pleasing aspects of my time at KSFH was how many of the staff sought me out and introduced themselves to me stating which Sight For All Fellowship they either had done or were undergoing and how much they appreciated this form of education,” Prof Crompton said.

 “All the staff appeared to inter-relate very well and inter-react well with the trainees.

“There was excellent willingness to inter-refer patients, with no hint of ‘possessiveness’, which I have seen in other countries.”

For Prof Crompton, Sight For All’s education-based approach to better eye health worldwide is an approach of simple but inspired thought.

“I believe that we eye surgeons have a moral obligation to ‘give back’ to others and empower them to help their own communities: the Sight For All ethos of ‘teaching a man to fish’,” he said.

“Teaching is always a two-way process. We Visionaries learn as much as our Fellows.”

Medical Director KSFH Prof Meng receives new equipment from Sight For All’s Prof John Crompton.

“I believe that we eye surgeons have a moral obligation to ‘give back’ to others and empower them to help their own communities: the Sight For All ethos of ‘teaching a man to fish’. Teaching is always a two-way process. We Visionaries learn as much as our Fellows. ”– Professor John Compton

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