Improving health worldwide: Eliminating needless blindness…

Girl with eye patch

Girl with eye patch

“Intelligence and capability are not enough, there must be the joy of doing something beautiful…” – Dr. G. Venkataswamy

I am Sanil Joseph from India. I am doing my MSc in Public Health (Health Services Research) at the school. I am presently employed with Aravind Eye Care System, Tamilnadu, India as a Hospital Management Consultant in its training and consultancy wing – Lions Aravind Institute of Community Ophthalmology (LAICO).

Aravind Eye Care System is a unique self-sustainable eye care delivery model that has been recognized as having a lot of relevance in developing countries. LAICO was established in 1992 to proactively share the Aravind model and draw best practices from different sectors to be shared with eye care providers across the world. This is done through a combination of intense capacity building processes, training and research. While LAICO’s consultancy and training has evolved into a definite and sustainable work process with necessary support structures in place, research has not become a mainstream activity here. LAICO aspires to improve its research capabilities so as to competently engage in meaningful research.

I had the opportunity to involve in a couple of research studies – one that explored gender issues in accessing eye care and another that compares spectacle uptake across different outreach models. This helped me to get a broad understanding of managing research projects. However, this experience also served to underline certain deficiencies – such as not being able to recognize potential research gaps, conceptualizing, designing and executing research projects in a way that ensures relevance while maintaining scientific rigor. Also, developing research capacity in the organization is more than just me taking up research studies occasionally. I envisage being able to encourage and guide others to design research studies and assist them in carrying out the same successfully.

In an attempt to achieve the above stated objectives, I chose to pursue an MSc in Public Health (Health Services Research) at LSHTM. This course seems appropriate to me as it is designed specifically to help students build competence for conceptualising and carrying out a research study and how the evidence generated can be best disseminated. Back in my organization, I would also be overseeing the support services for research such as biostatistics and data management services within the organization. I hope to strengthen the research work in the organization, especially relating to service delivery and epidemiology – these being directly within my area of focus.

I received a research scholarship from The Wellcome Trust, UK to pursue the MSc programme at the School. It is called ‘Masters Fellowship’ and it also supports me to carry out an 18 months long research project back in my organization following the MSc. The research project I have chosen is to evaluate the effectiveness of telemedicine-aided screening for a major blinding disease called Diabetic Retinopathy.

The School is one of the best and internationally reputed institutions providing Master’s in Public Health. The school’s international student community provides varied exposure and opportunity for cross learning. Also, the School offers a 12 months master’s course which is very much suitable for candidates like me who are full time employees and need to take time off their job to undergo the training.

I am enjoying my time at the school very much and the experience so far has been beyond my expectations! Stay tuned to hear more about the exciting stories…



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