Applying Old Solutions to New Technology

SriniVas Sadda, MD

President & Chief Scientific Officer

February 2019

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As we look ahead, there is great anticipation to the many advances in the field of vision science that we know are on the near horizon.  Throughout 2019, I will use this space to highlight a range of those gains in research, clinical trials and imaging that hold promise for both retina and cornea patients. For now, I wanted to share an experience I had during a recent visit to India — a clear reminder to myself, and to all of us, that sometimes it is a clever combination of high tech and low tech that makes all the difference in saving sight.

While visiting India to give the Prof. N.S. Sundaram and Smt. Kamala Sundaram Public Endowment Oration and Gold Medal address in Mumbai, I also enjoyed the opportunity for informal conversation with colleagues there, who are as intent on delivering state-of-the-art eye care as we are in Los Angeles. Of course, in India, there are typically more challenges in servicing the entire population, particularly in remote areas. In Los Angeles, most patients come to us; and for those who can’t easily get to one of our clinics, we take our UCLA Mobile Eye Clinic (under the direction of Dr. Anne Coleman) out into many communities.

Our Indian colleagues, led by Dr. S. Natarajan, are inspired by the mobile clinic model. But they know that given the roads and conditions, particularly in rural areas, many thousands of people would be impossible to reach in a van or converted RV. However, a technician riding a moped or small motor bike, equipped with a fundus camera, could easily make the trip and transmit images to a reading center. So that is what they’ve done. They send the technician up the rural roads, into villages far from cities, to find those people who need ophthalmological care and attention. This blend of cutting-edge technology with the use of a motor bike means the difference between providing state-of-the-art diagnostics or none at all.  In India, where diabetic retinopathy is truly an epidemic, this access to screening is critical.

It is important to remember, as we look to artificial intelligence — or “AI” as it is more commonly called — robotics and other rapidly accelerating advances in vision science, that we also consider applications and solutions that continue to serve us well.  Often, these solutions can enhance and augment what we are gaining.  Patients getting their eyes examined in a timely fashion is fundamental to saving sight — so this simple solution has been key to helping so many. It is your support of our efforts that makes it possible to make breakthroughs in science, serve patients, and inspire our colleagues around the globe. We are grateful.


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