Observership Report from Dafina Antonova, Bulgaria for Moorfields Eye Hospital, UK

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the SOE Educational Committee for awarding me the educational grant and providing me with the amazing opportunity to visit Moorfields Eye Hospital (MEH) in London. Spending two weeks as an observer there I gained valuable experience in the following departments: Glaucoma, Cornea & External diseases, Medical Retina and Vitreo-retinal services.

It was an honour and a privilege to visit this world renowned eye hospital taking into account it’s the oldest and largest centre for ophthalmic care in Europe. 

On my first day, we were welcomed by Ms. Maria Pennycuick, the observership coordinator, who guided us through the timetables, gave us a comprehensive tour of the hospital and made sure our first days started smoothly. I am very thankful for the kindness and assistance provided by Ms. Pennycuick. She was incredibly helpful, readily addressed all my questions and requests and provided information about upcoming consultant-led teaching sessions, making me feel at ease and allowing me to make the most of my time at Moorfields.

My observership program included participation in clinic and operating theatre sessions and I was given the opportunity to access a variety of seminars and lectures, as well as the Joint Library of Ophthalmology, which houses an impressive collection of books. I also found the MEH Museum very fascinating and intriguing as many ophthalmic instruments and tools used during the 18th & 19th century, as well as an ophthalmoscope which is said to have been used by Sir William Bowman himself, were on display.

During my stay I was able to observe the organisation of the workflow in the hospital, examine patients with complex and rare diseases, be involved in discussions about the different management strategies and learn from experts dealing with challenging cases that often combined multiple ocular pathologies. This also gave me a great opportunity to familiarise myself with the healthcare system in the UK and appreciate the differences with my home country.

Despite the considerable workload everything was very well organised and ran smoothly and efficiently. The consultants and fellows approached all of my questions with patience and attention through discussions emphasising the important details about the examinations, things to look out for, treatment protocols, follow up regimens and surgical techniques. All of them explained the medical conditions and different treatment options to their patients with great care and consideration.

I would like to address my special thanks to Prof. Keith Barton, Ms. Martins, Mr. Daniel Gore, Mr. Rodrigo Anguita, Mr. Daniel Sibley, Mr. Martin Watson and their wonderful teams for sharing their knowledge without hesitation and with great enthusiasm. Their professional conduct was greatly inspiring and motivating for me.

I felt particularly excited and fortunate to be able to spend time in the ORs and witness a great variety of surgeries performed by exceptional surgeons, including: implantation of glaucoma tube shunts, trabeculectomy, PPV for ERM, macular holes, PVR, PDR, lensectomy, subretinal haemorrhage, scleral buckling for retinal detachment, combined wavefront-guided PRK and corneal crosslinking, DSAEK and phacoemulsification in complex cataract cases. 

In summary, my educational experience was extremely positive and beneficial. I had the chance to improve my knowledge and gain new perspectives, but also get to know a lot of wonderful people who are passionate about ophthalmology. I really enjoyed my time spent there both on a professional and personal level and I look forward to applying the lessons I’ve learned to my practice back home.

Finally, I would like to express my admiration towards all the consultants, fellows, residents, surgical technicians, nurses and staff for being so kind and approachable and creating a very friendly and welcoming working environment.

I encourage residents and young ophthalmologists to apply for the SOE grant and take advantage of the opportunity to learn from leading experts at some of the best ophthalmology centres in Europe.