Kim Jebodhsingh completed her secondary education in Barbados at Harrison College, then went on to gain a Bachelor of Science Degree at the University Of Waterloo in Canada, followed by her MBBS at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. She subsequently completed her General Ophthalmology training at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, USA, followed by an American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Fellowship (ASOPRS) at the University of Toronto, Canada. Upon completion of her training, Dr. Jebodhsingh returned to Barbados in 2009. Dr. Kim Jebodhsingh is the brainchild and driving force behind the international Ophthalmology Subspecialty Conference, which has been successfully held in Barbados each year since 2010, featuring expert presenters from around the world. An enterprising person by nature, Kim Jebodhsingh also has an exciting vision for the future advancement of Ophthalmology in Barbados and the wider Caribbean.

Dr. Kim Jebodhsingh: I had always intended to return to Barbados after completing my training as I felt a patriotic obligation to do so, since I had benefited so much from our outstanding and free education system, which had been my launch-pad to be trained in ophthalmology in some of the top ranked institutions worldwide.

In Barbados we are very fortunate that most of our ophthalmologists have been trained in basically all of the subspecialty areas in ophthalmology. So, when I came home, I started to think about the idea of hosting a conference where our Barbadian doctors could collaborate with other ophthalmologists from the Caribbean and the rest of the world. I envisaged it as a good opportunity for us to share ideas and research, to learn from each other, and to pass on our knowledge to ophthalmologists in training, nurses, technicians and medical students. After doing some preliminary enquiring about estimated costs, potential attendees and general viability, I took the plunge and launched the first Ophthalmology Subspecialty Conference in 2010. We had about 10 speakers and 70 attendees that year, and I am happy to say that it was successful enough that we have continued every year since then, gradually growing in size and stature. Each conference focuses on a different subspecialty in ophthalmology, such as: oculoplastics, retina, cornea, paediatric ophthalmology, glaucoma and neuro-ophthalmology.

The conferences have proven to be very rewarding and beneficial in a number of tangible ways. Firstly, they have inspired greater camaraderie among the regional and international ophthalmologists. Even I have been introduced to new professionals from all around the world, who now refer patients to Barbados for specialty treatment and recommend their colleagues to speak at the conference. Secondly, more doors have been opened for our local ophthalmologists in training who, after making stellar presentations at the conference, have been offered fellowship positions at prestigious institutions such as the Moorfields Eye Hospital in London and the University of Toronto. Thirdly, many research ideas have developed during the conferences and I am the co-founder of the Caribbean Ophthalmology Research Foundation (C.O.R.F), a charity that funds regional ophthalmology research projects. And then, 3 years ago, I changed it from a 2-day to a 3-day conference, with the additional day allocated for a practical session. The aim was to help doctors to practice and advance their surgical skills, using for example pig eyes to do cataract surgery. It was so well received that three companies, Lenstec, Silverline and Alcon, sponsored the introduction of a permanent wet lab at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for doctors in training to have a location to always be able to practice their surgical skills. So that was a particularly good outcome.

The next Ophthalmology Subspecialty Conference, to be held in February 2017, is already well into the planning and preparation phase and we are expecting about 21 speakers from all over the world and at least 150 attendees.

I am convinced, without a doubt, that Barbados has the potential to be the central hub for ophthalmology in the Caribbean. I envision world-class ophthalmology being practiced in Barbados in an independent, multi-specialty and charity based, eye hospital. In addition to offering clinical and surgical ophthalmology, the hospital would also serve as a centre for educating ophthalmologists in the region and for collaborative research, with a special emphasis on the particular eye diseases that affect people in the Caribbean.

When that vision becomes a reality, it will undoubtedly be a very exciting development for Barbados. And I certainly look forward to being part of that innovative and worthwhile venture.

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