News Releases

May 10, 2017
Media contact: Leigh DeLozier (404) 778-3711, leigh.delozier@emory.edu

Fogarty International Center supports Global Ophthalmology-Emory fellowship with $100,000 grant

Fran Wu, MD, MPH, to be the first global fellow for Emory Eye Center

 

(ATLANTA)  Beginning in July 2017, Emory Eye Center will expand its training opportunities to include a global ophthalmology fellowship. The one-year fellowship was established in 2016 through a gift pledge from the Alcon Foundation. Now the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is also supporting the fellowship with a grant that will allow the fellow to spend the entire year in Ethiopia rather than dividing time between locations.

Fran Wu, MD, MPH
Fran Wu, MD, MPH

The first Global Ophthalmology-Emory (GO-Emory) fellow will be Fran Wu, MD, MPH. She is currently completing ophthalmology residency training at the Casey Eye Institute with Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.

“We submitted a research proposal to the Fogarty International Center’s Global Health Fellows Program about our work in Ethiopia,” says Jacquelyn O’Banion, MD, MSc, assistant director of GO-Emory. “The proposal was accepted, so Dr. Wu will be a Fogarty Research fellow in addition to being a GO-Emory fellow.”

“We’re very thankful for the Fogarty International Center’s support,” O’Banion continues. “This grant will provide additional research funds and support so she can focus all her efforts on clinical care and research in Ethiopia. It will help take the research to a higher level.”

Child receiving eye care from Global Ophthalmology Emory physicians in Ethiopia March 2016
Young girl receiving eye care from Global Ophthalmology Emory physicians in Ethiopia, March 2016

Emory Eye Center faculty and staff have worked with Ethiopian healthcare providers and patients for several years. Before submitting the Fogarty proposal, GO-Emory representatives asked their Ethiopian counterparts about their greatest needs related to ophthalmology. The answer: something related to retinoblastoma and childhood blindness.

Wu looks forward to working with the team in Ethiopia to make a difference in people’s lives.

“When choosing my specialty, ophthalmology made sense as a surgical field with the ability to make a great impact, even in low resource settings,” she says. “For example, cataract surgery is one of the most cost-effective procedures for improving quality of life and increasing a person’s years of productivity. Merely making cataract surgery accessible to a population could be a public health initiative in and of itself.”

The Fogarty International Center is part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health; it supports basic, clinical, and applied research and training for U.S. and foreign investigators working in the developing world. Fogarty funds more than 500 projects involving about 100 U.S. universities, including Emory. The U.S. scientists then collaborate with colleagues in foreign countries to address a wide range of global health issues.

Wu’s interest in a global fellowship stems from her experiences during service trips to Kyrgyzstan, Ghana, and other areas.

“While in medical school, I decided to pursue a Masters of Public Health degree to expand my understanding of preventative health and population health,” she says. “Medicine is great for treating individuals, but I’m interested in impacting whole populations.”

Wu already has learned that having local communities involved in developing public health programs can play a crucial role in a program’s success. Getting up-front input from the Ethiopian community on the GO-Emory fellowship follows that same line of thinking and leads Wu to believe her time there will be successful.

“Cultural immersion and adaptation, building relationships, teaching and mentoring, and patient care all have the best chance of success with sustained interaction over a longer period of time,” Wu says. “An international fellowship that allows me to remain in one community for as long as possible can be instrumental in helping me reach the goals I’ve set for myself as well as provide longer-lasting care for the people there.”

The Fogarty Global Health Fellowship Program is a one-year research training program for pre- and post-doctoral candidates from the U.S. and lower-middle-income countries (LMICs) to study diseases and conditions in developing countries. The program is administered by six U.S. university consortiums, one of which is the Vanderbilt-Emory-Cornell-Duke (VECD) Consortium.

“The [Fogarty proposal] reviewers found Dr. Wu’s academic prowess, broad background in science, service, and public health, and outstanding mentoring support impressive,” says Donna J. Ingles, MS, MPH, program manager for the VECD Fogarty Global Health Fellowship. “Her fellowship project will address infrastructure and policy challenges in screening, diagnosing, and managing retinoblastoma in Ethiopia.”

“This is an excellent opportunity to support a future leader in the global ophthalmology field, which is typically underrepresented in global health research,” Ingles adds. “VECD looks forward to supporting Dr. Wu as a trainee, and Fogarty has been highly supportive of her addition to our list of incoming trainees for 2017-2018.”

“We are very excited about the Fogarty International Center’s support and how it expands the opportunities for Dr. Wu and the people of Ethiopia,” O’Banion says. “We’re looking forward to working together on other projects as well.”

“I’m extremely thankful for this opportunity,” Wu adds. “I hope to learn to manage diseases I have not seen before, to learn to manage diseases that require a different mindset and some creativity in an international setting, and to become comfortable with surgical techniques that might be rarely used in the U.S. This fellowship will be crucial to the international work I hope to do long-term, making ophthalmic care accessible and sustainable for the populations that need it most.”

Learn more about Global Ophthalmology-Emory: http://www.eyecenter.emory.edu/global

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The Emory Eye Center is the largest, most comprehensive eye care facility in Georgia, serving patients for more than 125 years. With programs in cornea, retina (surgical and medical), glaucoma, neuro-ophthalmology, oculoplastics, ophthalmic pathology and pediatric ophthalmology, Emory Eye Center has long been one of the most sought-after training programs for ophthalmology subspecialties. Innovative treatments, groundbreaking research and personalized care have earned the Eye Center the respect of patients and providers alike. To learn more, visit www.eyecenter.emory.edu.

 

 

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