Connecting eyes and healthcare around the world

In recent years, NECO students have partnered with colleagues from Wenzhou Medical University (WMU) and SUNY Optometry to participate in the Global Health Leadership Development Program.

The program has been designed to help students broaden their perspective on global health care, while providing useful skills for leadership development. Students share research posters and presentations with their peers, faculty and a panel of experts. Their research is presented to coincide with World Sight Day.

This research program was created in part thanks to NECO’s collaborations with many international schools of optometry, one of our closest partners is WMU, and through the coordination of NECO Assistant Professor of Clinical Optometry and Coordinator for International Programs Dr. Meng Meng Xu.

Our relationship dates back 30 years when both schools they worked together to pave the way for optometry education in China. Over the past few years, they have sent ten medical students to NECO to learn about the health system in the United States and gain a more global perspective on contemporary public health problems.

Due to the pandemic, students have done virtually all of their research and discussions. They chose from a number of topics to focus on, including comparing the health history of a person diagnosed with diabetes in the United States versus China and how technology will shape the future of general health care or vision care provision in China. and in the United States.

Poster presentation depicting the patient’s journey after diabetes diagnosis.

One of the NECO students who participated in this project was Lucy Raptis OD2. He shares his experiences and what he learned in the interview below. She focused on how technology will shape eye care in the future with her group partners Jian Zhao, Shiqi Hu, Zelin Wang, Xinyun Li and Yuchen Liu.

WMU’s Yi Ye also shares their experience and key points of participating in the Global Healthcare Leadership Development Program below.

NECO: How was your experience working with students from another country?

LR: I had a great time working with students from another country! I feel like I’ve made new friends and great pen pals. We all had so much in common and really enjoyed connecting and working together. We all have very busy student commitments, as well as a 12 hour time difference, so we quickly realized we had to meet either very early in the morning or very late in the evening to communicate effectively. Once we mapped the meeting times, it was smooth sailing and a lot of fun.

Lucy at her white coat ceremony

NECO: What has this international collaboration taught you?

LR: It taught me that the needs of one country can be very different from those of another. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how structurally different medical care can be in other parts of the world. I’ve lived in the United States my entire life, so hearing my international classmates’ views on health care in China has opened my eyes. On the contrary, I was also reminded of how similar people tend to be. My peers and I have a lot in common, especially as students in a medical program. It was so easy to talk to them and I consider them all my friends.

NECO: What did you learn after comparing our eye care system to the Chinese system?

LR: The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that our needs are met differently than theirs. Here in the United States, people in rural areas have access to eye care. While in China, those in rural areas don’t have the same access. Therefore, there is a strong need for screening tools and the use of telemedicine to connect patients in rural areas to doctors in urban areas.

I also learned that the government in China subsidizes telemedicine programs so that patients in rural areas have better access to eye care. Recently, a Beijing ophthalmologist even performed remote eye laser surgery. These were all fascinating things to learn about eye care in China. In the United States, we use telemedicine differently, for example it is occasionally used in eye care for follow-up appointments.

Presentation of the poster detailing how telemedicine can shape eye care.

NECO: Why did you select this topic?

LR: I selected the topic of technology because I knew I was going to learn something interesting. Technology is constantly evolving. It has had a big impact on eye care, especially in the past few decades. Comparing the way the technology is used in eye care in two different countries turned out to be quite surprising.

NECO: Have you seen that telemedicine has an impact on the lives of patients?

LR: Yes, I have seen that telemedicine has a positive impact on the lives of many patients. It gives them convenient access to healthcare, as it takes time and money to attend appointments in person. I have seen firsthand many patients who were so happy and relieved not to have to take time off work, and could instead make a quick 15-minute telemedicine call to talk to their doctor about dry eye symptoms. This is why telemedicine is so great for follow-up care.

NECO: What do you hope to see for optometry in terms of care delivery?

LR: I hope the field of optometry continues to deliver fantastic patient care as efficiently as possible. This means using telemedicine whenever it is a reasonable option for follow-up appointments. In my experience, telemedicine appointments are efficient and convenient for both the doctor and the patient. I hope that telemedicine continues to be used on a daily basis in optometric care.

NECO student Lucy Raptis (top left) meets WMU students on zoom.

Yi Ye from WMU also shares her experience of working with students from around the world. His time in researching and collaborating with NECO students also uncovered new insights into healthcare and the needs of different countries.

NECO: How was your experience working with NECO students?

AA: It was quite interesting to work together across the ocean and time zones. When we held meetings, we were usually about to go to sleep while the other had just woken up, so neither of us was ever one hundred percent awake. We left messages for each other to work on in our spare time, just like a relay race. But we ended up with a big project and we both learned a lot. Also, learning about American culture from the perspective of American students really broadened my horizon.

NECO: What have you learned about the American health system?

AA: I have learned so much through this intercultural communication. For example, I learned that the prevention and control of myopia is not emphasized in the United States, it is a very important initiative here in China, I thought it would be the same thing abroad.

Furthermore, we shared and learned from each other’s work and study habits. The friendships we have made are even more than precious and impressive. All in all, it was a fun experience and we hope someday we can work together offline!

NECO: What have you learned about eye care?

AA: I was amazed and moved by the story of Professor Blair Wong and his presentation, and I was intrigued by the low vision treatment. The various technologies for assisting the visually impaired are impressive, and the US social support system for the visually impaired is more comprehensive than China’s.

Also, I was struck by the related research that focuses on diagnosing neurodegenerative diseases through eye examination alone. This implies that eye exams are not only important for eye services, but for all health services. As a clinical student, these two weeks of classes broadened my knowledge of optometry and even made me consider choosing it as an area of ​​study in my masters.

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