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On World Prematurity Day the Trust celebrates a true eye health hero
Four-year-old Master Mohammad Siddik received laser and other treatment for retinopathy of prematurity in time to save his sight. He continues to have regular eye examinations by Dr Subhadra Jalali who always rewards him with a treat. © Poulomi Basu / The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust.

On World Prematurity Day the Trust celebrates a true eye health hero

On World Prematurity Day, the Trust is celebrating the work of Dr Subhadra Jalali – a pioneering ophthalmologist who is leading the way in preventing premature babies from going blind across India and beyond.

Retinopathy of prematurity can cause total and irreversible blindness in premature babies as their retinal blood vessels have not had a chance to fully develop by birth. Over-exposure to oxygen in the incubator is highly toxic to blood vessels including those in the retina, and is a major cause of retinopathy of prematurity. Therefore, levels of oxygen administered  must be carefully monitored.

Cases of retinopathy of prematurity are increasing in middle-income countries, where more premature babies are surviving because of improved access to neonatal care but where knowledge of the condition and its causes are lacking.

The Trust is working with the with the Public Health Foundation of India and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, with the support of the Government of India, to increase awareness of this condition across India and support work to detect and treat ROP so that no more premature infants lose their sight needlessly.

The work of Dr Jalali is instrumental in the Trust’s programme to stop premature babies from going needlessly blind.

Dr Subhadra Jalali

Dr Subhadra Jalali is a highly qualified ophthalmologist who has worked at L.V.Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad, India for many years. She has played a pivotal role in the control of visual loss from retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) not only in India but also elsewhere. In 1998 she established a programme for detecting and treating sight-threatening retinopathy of prematurity in neonatal care units across Hyderabad and established a tertiary level centre of excellence for treating end-stage ROP, which requires highly complex surgery. There are only a few surgeons in the world with the level of skill required to manage these complex cases, and she has operated on hundreds of infants who are referred to her from across India and beyond. So far over 12,000 premature babies have been treated under her care.

Subhadra is not only an ophthalmologist with exceptional clinical skills, but she is also a committed and enthusiastic trainer – the first person to start a unique, dedicated hands-on ROP course. She has trained over 350 ophthalmologists how to screen for and detect ROP again, from across India and internationally, and also teaches ophthalmologists how to operate on some of the most complex cases where surgery offers the only opportunity for sight.

Subhadra is driven by compassion and excellence, and is committed to the rights of the preterm infants in her care. She is an excellent communicator, and talks clearly and honestly to parents and colleagues alike. Indeed, during training she exposes trainees to all aspects of care of preterm infants – not only clinical care. For many trainees spending time with Subhadra is a life-changing experience, as they see first-hand how the head and the heart can and should work together in delivering excellent services.

Subhadra is playing a key leadership role in the Trust’s ROP programme in India, being Chairperson of the Technical Expert Group on Competency Based Training, which was convened by the Ministry of Health’s National ROP Task Force. She will also play a major role in scaling up services for the detection and treatment of ROP in one of the model programmes being supported by the Trust.

Subhadra takes every opportunity to raise awareness about ROP,be this through the media, meetings with senior officials, by publishing the results of her work in books, peer-reviewed journals (currently totalling 115 papers) and presentations at international meetings.

Subhadra thanks the LV Prasad Eye Institute for supporting her work,

I had some dreams in my journey through life and I am thrilled that twenty years on the LVPEI faculty has helped me fulfil many of these. LVPEI has provided a platform for fulfilling my dreams of teaching and training the younger generations, travelling across the globe meeting people from scores of different civilizations, treating patients independently and scientifically without restrictions or pressures of race, colour, caste, religion, economics or resources.  I am myself amazed at the fact that the dream which was personal to begin with, is no longer personal, but has become part of the life of innumerable students, colleagues and most importantly the tiny ROP patients. The journey continues!

Dr Jalali is one of the IAPB’s Eye Health Leaders of 2015.