Five representatives of the Pacific Eye Care Society (PacEYES) set out on a journey to meet, advocate and share their eye health experience at the World Ophthalmology Congress in Barcelona. New Zealand-based, Dr. Ana Cama of Fiji, PNG-based doctors, Geoffrey Wabulembo and Jambi Garap, Dr. Andronico Ly of Timor Leste and myself – Fiji-based Dr. Elenoa Matoto, originally from the Kingdom of Tonga – headed off on the 30 hour journey to our first stop:
For someone like me who has never set foot outside the Pacific, this was culture-shock! Technology, transportation and massive infrastructure and all those trains… half the time I spent praying that I was heading in the right direction. Strolling to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, I was made aware that I was in a much bigger kingdom than my home country. Many things were massive, including buses, statues and buildings!
We had the privilege of meeting with Mr Peter Holland, the new CEO of IAPB, updating him on how IAPB and PacEYES had worked together in the past. He was happy and proud to continue this dialogue and relationship, working closely with Western Pacific Program Manager, Drew Keys. We met with IAPB Director of Communications and Development, Joanna Conlon and with Emma Foote regarding the 11th GA in Auckland in 2020 (a great opportunity for the Blue Continent) Finally, we presented on the Blue Continent to the IAPB and London School staff and had a meeting with Dr Mathew Burton and Nick Astbury from LINKS.
We also had the privilege of meeting with Eleanor Fuller and other staff members of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust; and also with Virginia Sarah from the Fred Hollows Foundation and International Trachoma Initiative.
After a quick tour to the Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and St. Pauls Cathedral we were on our way to our next destination:
By this time we had recovered from jetlag and were hyped up for our presentations for WOC. Because our presentation was on the last day, we were fortunate to attend other ICO presentations, including the AGM; Best Practices in Ophthalmological Society Development and ICO Fellowships/Examinations sessions. Through these, I was made aware that although some strengthening of best practice is required, PacEYES is well in the mix with regards to international standards. Furthermore, as PacEYES President I also found the ICO Fellowship & Exam presentations useful and it is something that our members should take advantage of.
The last day of WOC saw the combined symposium, co-organized with the Ophthalmological Society of the West Indies (OSWI). All I can say is, it was an honour to represent and advocate for PacEYES and to be part of the team to voice our Challenges, Successes and Goals in the Blue Continent. If anyone is interested, please contact me and I would be happy to share our presentation.
Finally, I would like to extend a big Gracias! to our sponsors and supporters who made this trip a success – IAPB, the Fred Hollows Foundation, South Pacific Community, Brien Holden Vision Institute, CBM and OPC.
Dr Elenoa Matoto, Colonial War Memorial Hospital, Suva Fiji Islands
Image on top: Across the front row, L to R: Dr Andronico Ly, Dr Jambi Garap, Dr Elenoa Matoto, Dr Ana Cama, Dr Geoffrey Wabulembo with OSWI in the background.