This report has been written by Dr. Georgia Kamboj, Research Manager, Retina Global.
The World Diabetes Foundation has approved funding to support the “Bolivian Diabetic Retinopathy Project” (#BOLDR). The preliminary (or Phase I) part of this project will be conducted over 3 years, in the city of Cochabamba and its surrounding regions, with an aim to expand this project to a nation wide initiative in future. Retina Global is working closely with Fundación Boliviana de Oftalmología (FBO), our local partner in Cochabamba on this project.
The first official visit to Cochabamba as part of this project, which was from April 16 to 20, 2018, was a great success. A number of patients were examined in the clinics of FBO over the week, with treatment offered to a significant number of these patients.
Pictures in the clinics:
During our visit, the first outreach visit was organized to Tiquipaya, which is about an hour away from the center of the city. The Mayor and other officials of Tiquipaya were extremely helpful in organizing the visit, with arrangements made in front of the city hall for patients to be checked for visual acuity and for triage, following which those who needed examination were sent to the nearby local health clinic, where these patients were examined by the visiting retina specialists. Ophthalmology residents and medical students from the University of San Simon were involved in patient workup, including history taking, measuring visual acuity, and administering dilating drops. This allowed for 60 patients to have their retina evaluation performed during our half day visit. Outreach visits will be scheduled on a 2 weekly basis during this project, with a plan to deliver screening and laser treatment directly to the community.
Pictures from the outreach visit to Tiquipaya.
During our visit, we spent a significant portion of our time establishing working relationships with local ophthalmologists, health care providers and organizations in order to ensure successful implementation of this project. Dra. Elizabeth Duarte, the founder of Centro Vivir con Diabetes met with us to discuss the project and how it can be integrated into the current health care facilities in Cochabamba. Local ophthalmologists from Viedma Hospital and private ophthalmology clinics were happy to support this project and be involved in DR screening and treatment. The Bolivian Ophthalmology Society and The Bolivian Retina Society, who have also endorsed this project, will be key in advertising this project to Ophthalmologists nation-wide and to the public. The University of San Simon and the local Ministry of Health are interested in involving this project in the public health initiatives associated with the current medical school and residency training programs.
Some pictures from the meetings:
A Certification course is also being offered as part of this project. This course will take place on a 6-monthly basis and is offered to ophthalmologists around Bolivia. The aim of the course is to provide formal education on diabetic retinopathy screening and treatment. Both didactic teaching and hands on clinical training are being conducted. The first evening of education was performed during this visit to Cochabamba and was well received. Future initiatives will also include specific training for primary care physicians regarding referral of patients with diabetes for diabetic retinopathy screening.
Apart from the World Diabetes Foundation’s support for the Certification course, we have received additional support from ThromboGenics for this course.
Some pictures from the certification course:
During our visit, we also organized the first BOLDR Advisory Board meeting, which brought together experts in Cochabamba, along with Dr. Marcelo Murillo, who is the President of the Bolivian Retina Society, from various backgrounds to brainstorm over the project and to discuss ways of making it succeed.
We would also like to acknowledge DigiSight Technologies for their loaner of a PAXOS Scope for 6 months, which we have used during this outreach and will continue to use in subsequent missions.
We look forward to continuing this project over the coming years and developing and successful program to target diabetic retinopathy in Bolivia.