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International Women’s Day 2021 in the Western Pacific: Women Leaders in Eye Health – Dr Lucilla Ah Ching-Sefo

Published: 05.03.2021
Dr Lucilla Ah Ching-Sefo Ophthalmologist, Samoa

Talofa lava. My name is Dr Lucilla Ah Ching-Sefo.

I was born and raised in Samoa, a small island nation in the South Pacific Ocean. We have a population of about 200,000 people and I am the only ophthalmologist working here.

I work for the Samoa Ministry of Health and have done so for over 15 years. I am happily married with two terrific daughters.

Although my role as a wife and mother is of the highest priority to me, today I’d like to talk about my other passion in life which is my work as an eye specialist for Samoa.

I am based on the main island of Upolu where 70% of our population resides. This ensures a great workload that keeps me busy for months in advance. Despite this, it has not escaped my attention that there are many people in our neighbouring island who also need our help but are unable to make the trip across due to financial constraints and various other reasons. So, I take the ferry ride over to conduct clinics to ease the difficulty of seeking and achieving better health for our people there. Of course, this is less than ideal but I am hopeful that one day all our population will have equal access to eye care services.

I work with a team of ophthalmic nurses to provide clinical and surgical eye care to the public. I am blessed to be surrounded by competent and confident colleagues with whom I share the same sense of responsibility for the welfare of our people. It is only with this shared sense of purpose that we can achieve so much for our community, given our limited resources.

On a small island, one’s reputation is important. It is yet another measure of the quality of care. Word would easily spread if our team was offering a subpar service, so it is crucial to ensure that we are providing a high standard of care. So, when I see a full clinic, there may be many reasons for this, but I also like to think it is somewhat an indication that our eye care team is offering a service that our people can trust.

We are extremely fortunate to receive assistance from international governments and private organizations however, without a competent local team, such help would easily go to waste if not channelled effectively to areas where it would have the greatest impact. I like to think that I help in this regard for Samoa. I make a point of reviewing our records and listening to our patients. Being the focal person for eye care in Samoa, I strive to be an effective advocate for our people’s health needs to both our local leaders and our international partners, so the best possible decisions are made on their behalf.

I am also a member of various professional groups, such as the Samoa Medical Association and Pacific Eye Care Society, whose overall vision is to improve the health of our people. It is important to work together to make effective and sustainable improvements to the health of our population through a multi-faceted approach.

I am honoured to be able to contribute to my community by helping improve their lives and I hope to continue to do so for as long as I can.

IWD2021-in-the-Western-Pacific Introduction
Women Leaders in Eye Health



Dr Chimgee Chuluunkhuu
Dr Chimgee Chuluunkhuu

Mongolia Country Director, Orbis

Jaki Adams

Director Social Justice & Regional Engagement, The Fred Hollows Foundation

Dr Audrey Aumua

Chief Executive, The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ

Dr Vandana Ramachandaran

Director for Research & Academic Affairs, Singapore Eye Research Institute

Disclaimer: The views, ideas, technologies or policy positions in these blog posts belong to the authors and do not necessarily describe IAPB’s position or views on these matters.