It is a pleasure to nominate Shaffi Mdala as an eye health hero and change-maker.
We came to know Shaffi when he attended the MSc in Public Health for Eye Care at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in 2018. Shaffi’s passion for population eye health and research was evident during his time in London. Since his return to Malawi, we have collaborated with Shaffi on a range of hospital- and population-based research projects. In these projects, Shaffi has demonstrated the development of strong research skills and an unwavering commitment to improve eye health in Malawi. We undertook a range of research projects to inform the recent Lancet Global Health Commission on Global Eye Health, and were very pleased Shaffi was able to join several of those projects.
Beyond collaborations with our team, Shaffi has other local and international research collaborations, in addition to his ongoing clinical work as a consultant ophthalmologist at QECH. His commitment to improving equity in eye health is evident in his commitment to provide outreach services in remote, under-served communities around Blantyre.
Shaffi also contributes to eye health governance and teaching roles. As an honorary lecturer in the ophthalmology unit at Kamuzu University of Health Sciences, Shaffi enjoys mentoring trainee ophthalmologists and supervising postgraduate research projects. Shaffi is also the vice president of the Ophthalmological Society of Malawi (OSM) and the chairperson of the research subcommittee of the National Prevention of Blindness Committee (NPBC).
Shaffi has a particular interest in improving eye health services for people with diabetes, and his work has created change. For example, in 2020 he led a team of researchers on a Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) SightFirst Grant to conduct a situational analysis of diabetic retinopathy and diabetes services in Malawi. This project informed the Ministry of Health on how these services can be strengthened in pursuit of universal health coverage. In addition, Shaffi was recently awarded an excellence in ophthalmology vision award at the College of Ophthalmology of Eastern, Central and Southern Africa (COECSA). This award supported the integration of retinal screening into the diabetes clinic at QECH, with the aim of increasing coverage of retinal screening.
We commend Shaffi for his commitment to creating change in Malawi and improving eye health. We wish him all the best as an eye health hero and look forward to many more years of collaboration.
“The thought of losing the gift of sight is more dreadful than death for a lot of people. It is very fulfilling to play a daily role in improving the quality of life of individuals, their families and communities through sight preservation, restoration and rehabilitation. I thus feel blessed to be an ophthalmologist.
I work in a great team of people who help me believe that I can make a difference. I am grateful to them and all colleagues in my network for making ophthalmology feel like one global family united with one purpose of promoting population eye health.”
– Shaffi Mdala