eLearning could solve refractive surgery training dilemma

October 1, 2007

Subspecialty training courses in ophthalmology are often subject to criticism because of the lack of detail that is provided to students wanting to specialise in a particular area.

Refractive surgery is one of those subjects which is notoriously known to be poorly served by comprehensive training courses, with many budding refractive surgeons gaining their knowledge from a combination of sources: device manufacturers, basic one-day courses at congresses, and on the job.

There are many reasons for this, one being that many ophthalmologists wanting to gain additional knowledge and new skills are in full-time employment and hence find great difficulty attending didactic courses. Another reason is related to the fact that most prominent and well-respected thought leaders have limited time to provide a series of lectures because they are in such high demand.

Having acknowledged the difficulties in providing such an extensive course over a time period that suited both lecturer and student, an alternative method to the traditional approach of training needed to be found.

"The answer to this dilemma was to develop an e-course, where lectures are delivered online and could therefore be compiled and delivered at the lecturers' and students' convenience," advised Professor Shah.

Professor Shah teamed up with a former corneal fellow of his, Professor Johnny Moore, and Senior Lecturer Dr Tara Moore and, in collaboration with one of the World's largest e-learning centres - Campus One at University of Ulster, Northern Ireland - a course was developed that offered a comprehensive suite of distance learning postgraduate courses in cataract and refractive surgery.

"The course was successfully launched two years ago and it is now evolving with the addition of new technical capabilities and the availability of video and webcasts," said Professor Shah.

Renowned specialists deliver e-lectures

Delivered by internationally renowned refractive specialists, such as Jorge Alio, Dimitri Azar, Ioannis Pallikaris, Steve Schallhorn and Michael Mrochen, to mention a few, the course content has been designed to cover the basics of refractive surgery, from how excimer lasers work, to ablation profiles and topography and aberrometry. It progresses through microkeratomes and femtosecond lasers to LASEK, LASIK, phakic IOLs and clear lens extractions, and the complications and management of each. Preoperative assessment and postoperative follow-up, prevention and management of complications, surgical variants of phaco and modern IOLs for cataract surgery are also covered.

In terms of its target student, the course is geared towards ophthalmologists, optometrists, orthoptists, nurse practitioners and ophthalmic technicians. In addition, continued professional development points are accredited to individual weeks of study.