A talk with Douglas J Furlong
Mohin Uddin Mizan talks to Douglas J Furlong, President & CEO at KeraLink International, USA, on the four-day Corneal Blindness Programme held @ BSMMU
What is the objective of this four-day workshop?
The objective is to primarily train Sandhani medical students. There are over two hundred students who are being trained over here. They all will act as ambassadors and work to convince the possible eye donors. Collecting eyes from the donors and after the actual clinical recoveries from diseases, they will reach the corneas to the eye bank within the shortest time possible so that the corneas can be used for transplant. Because of the help of a huge number of Sandhani volunteers this programme will have a very quick success rate. I hope to recover more than hundred corneas per month and thousands in a year from Bangladesh and also hope to scale up from there.
One student from this workshop alleged that you are concentrating more on theoretical training rather than hands-on, what is your comment?
Hands-on training is a very critical component of this programme. We called every single student to practice in the lab yesterday. We want every student learn how to recover the corneas correctly. This will not be the only training. It will be followed by other sessions. If anyone thinks that they didn't get enough training from this session, they can come back for another session. Anyone who wants to be trained will be trained.
That means you have a long-term plan with this initiative?
Right you are. We have a long-term plan. We are teaching not only the Sandhani students but also the teachers and some others. As far as I am concerned, 28 faculties registered for the training programme along with the students. The teachers of this workshop will be the trainers and the Sandhani medical students will be the future teachers too.
What's your expectation from this programme?
We expect very quick result from this programme. In the year 2018, we hope to recover probably more than 2 thousand corneas. Every single medical student who has enlisted to be trained here made a commitment that they will try their best to collect and recover one cornea per month which will be 12 in a year per student or more. You know within a kilometre of this building, there are thousands of people walking, who could be the potential donors. The trained will need to convince some of those people along with their relatives to give their corneas to their beloved ones or someone else after death.
But, you know it is not so easy to convince people; there are prejudices among the people with religious superstitions. How can they be overcome?
Yes, there are. The solutions to these are public awareness and public education. You will be informed more on these problems and solutions from our distinguished guests like Mahmood Farazdaghi, President, International Federation of Banks; Kamrul Hasan Khan, Vice-Chancellor, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU); SAM Showket Hossain, Immediate Past Governor, Rotary International District-3281. What I think all the participants going to be trained here would work as ambassadors; they will at first convince their siblings, relatives and then others. Through awareness raising, we can bring a change.
Douglas J Furlong
KeraLink International is a non-profit,
non-governmental network of eye banks and related programme committed to reversing corneal blindness wherever it exists. It, founded in 1962, started as a
single eye bank in Baltimore, Maryland. Formerly known as TBI/Tissue Banks International, KeraLink International has been serving surgeons and their patients in need for more than fifty years as a world leader in the fight against corneal blindness. It does this by investing in world-class facilities, medical education, collaboration with other members of the transplant community, creative development campaigns and
cutting-edge research, as well as by providing charitable tissue both domestically and internationally to patients in need each year. With their seven centres strategically located throughout the United States, it is uniquely positioned to process and deliver the highest quality donor tissue where it's most needed. At the same time, it supports the development and maintenance of eye banks around the world, so they can do
the same thing for their communities.