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NECO Professors Spearhead Participation in International Low Vision Awareness Program

Drs. Nicole Ross and Alexis Malkin, practicing low vision specialists and faculty at New England College of Optometry and New England Eye, recently travelled to India to present at the 35th Low Vision Awareness Program Plus (LAP +) in collaboration with faculty at LV Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI), Hyderabad.

This program is part of an international optometric collaboration begun last year to great success. In September 2015, Drs. Ross and Malkin initiated the first international low vision grand rounds program with LVPEI via teleconferencing from New England College of Optometry, and the invitation to lecture in person in India for March 2016 followed soon after. (Read more about the International Grand Rounds program.)

Dr. Ross and Dr. Malkin present at conference in India.

Dr. Ross explains that she first met Dr. Premnandhini Satgunam of LVPEI when she conducted post-doctorate research in Dr. Eli Peli’s lab in Cambridge. Drs. Ross and Satgunam have continued to discuss issues in low vision rehabilitation, bringing in their colleagues Dr. Vijaya K. Gothwal (LVPEI) and Dr. Malkin (NECO, NEE).

Dr. Ross notes that, during a conversation at ARVO 2015, “We were surprised that despite the geographical distance between our practices, we continued to face similar issues in low vision rehabilitation. We decided to explore creative ways to excite and educate our students, interns and residents, in addition to continuing to exchange ideas in low vision research.” 

participants watching presentation at LAP Plus conferenceLAP + was an opportunity to see that plan in action. Drs. Ross and Malkin joined Professor Jill Keeffe of the University of Melbourne, Australia and a variety of local practitioners as part of the expert faculty at LVPEI. The three-day program covered specific topics suiting the requirements of practicing low vision rehabilitation specialists from within the LVPEI network as well from other parts of the country.

The first day of the program consisted of presentations by the expert faculty. Topics included The Role of Technology in Low Vision Rehabilitation, Measuring Outcomes in Low Vision Rehabilitation, Global Perspectives of Low Vision Rehabilitation, and Management of a Child with Cerebral Palsy.  Drs. Ross and Malkin presented Technology and Low Vision Rehabilitation: Is This the Way of the Future to a crowd of 175 faculty members at LV Prasad.

On the second day, each conference participant had the chance to present their own challenging cases for discussion of specific management strategies. Dr. Malkin explains, “During the Low Vision Awareness Program (LAP), we presented on a variety of topics including measuring outcomes in low vision, providing low vision care to those with multiple disabilities and future directions for low vision outreach.”  These included discussion time with other providers to focus on ways to reduce barriers for accessing care. Participants noted the similarities of issues confronting the practice of low vision rehabilitation in developed and developing countries, and the challenges facing the field globally.

 “The opportunity to connect across oceans and borders is invaluable, and the importance of international collaboration in the field of low vision rehabilitation is essential in order to advance practice patterns,” noted Dr. Ross.  

“During the one week visit to LV Prasad,” explains Dr. Malkin, “we gained valuable insight and broader perspectives into international low vision care. We will use these to develop new strategies for didactic and clinical education for the College.” Dr. Malkin is looking forward to applying this knowledge to the variety of settings in which she works with low vision patients and NECO students in the Boston area.

Dr. DiMartino presenting certificate to participant.The program concluded with the presentation of official certificates of participation by Dr. Robert DiMartino, Vice-President and Dean of Academic Affairs at NECO, who also attended the program briefly.

LAP + provided the opportunity for a rich exchange of ideas, knowledge, and challenges related to the field of low vision rehabilitation, and a solid confirmation of the benefit of international collaboration.  Both Drs. Ross and Malkin were able to spend time in the low vision clinic at LV Prasad Eye Institute, sharing their expertise with patients and helping the team at the low vision clinic design their ideas assistive technology center. 

 Drs. Ross and Malkin are in continued discussions with LVPEI to collaborate in low vision teaching, clinical care, and research moving forward. They have committed to continue the international grand rounds program via teleconferencing bi-annually in September and March. In addition, the faculty groups will have another discussion at ARVO 2016.  

 The 35th Low Vision Awareness Program Plus  (LAP +)  was held at LV Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad, India in collaboration with the New England College of Optometry (NECO) and New England Eye (NEE), Boston, USA, from March 9 to 11, 2016. Twenty-two participants attended the event.