Twenty years of International Council of Ophthalmology fellowships: description of the programme and the impact on more than 1100 awardees

Br J Ophthalmol. 2020 Aug 29;bjophthalmol-2020-316484. doi: 10.1136/bjophthalmol-2020-316484. Online ahead of print.


Background/aims: The International Council of Ophthalmology (ICO) offers fellowship programmes to help young ophthalmologists, mainly from low-resource countries, improve their practical or research skills in ophthalmology subspecialty areas. Using questionnaires, the objective of the present study was to evaluate how the ICO Fellowship Programme has impacted on improving knowledge, skills and the careers of young ophthalmologists from low-resource countries.

Methods: From 2001 to 2019 overall 1140 ICO fellowships were awarded. A questionnaire was sent to ICO fellows after the conclusion of their fellowship and another 3 years later. Part 1 contained 26 questions, while Part 2 had 21 questions. The answers were collected through an online platform and analysed descriptively thereafter.

Results: 1101 Part 1 questionnaires had been sent to former fellows, with a return rate of 47% (516 responses) and 829 Part 2 questionnaires with a return rate of 47% (390 responses). Overall, 98.3% strongly or somewhat agreed that knowledge in their subspecialty has improved considerably. Whereas only 19% of them held a lecturer, senior lecturer or head of subspecialty department position prior to the fellowship, 46% of them held such a position 3 years after the fellowship was completed.

Conclusions: The ICO Fellowship Programmes aim to promote the enhancement of eye care delivery and eye health in low-resource countries, the professional development of young leaders and the improvement of eye care. The results of the current study confirm the expectation of such a positive impact. Moreover, almost half of the responding participants have been appointed to a local leadership position in their home country.

Keywords: Medical Education; Public health; Vision.