After three and a half years, the appropriate authorities in Ethiopia ultimately approved Dr. Kempen's Uveitis Fellowship application for certification enthusiastically. This development is a great step toward sustainability of our mission in Ethiopia, as it will allow Dr. Kempen and Dr. Emebet whom he has trained previously to train new uveitis specialists for the region systematically.
The first uveitis advanced subspecialty program in Sub-Saharan Africa (and one of very few ophthalmology fellowships in the region) has great implications - that uveitis specialists will multiply to the point that Ethiopians will not need to go blind from this massively unaddressed yet treatable disease! Additionally, we hope that uveitis specialty training will operate as a flagship program that can be transferred to our other clinical specialties so that Ethiopians and other under-served Sub-Saharan African countries can have access to local, affordable, sight saving treatment in a sustainable way.
Uveitis can be thought of as intraocular inflammation. It usually affects the middle layer of tissue in the eye wall (uvea). Uveitis (u-vee-I-tis) warning signs often come on suddenly and get worse quickly. They include eye redness, pain and/or blurred vision. The condition can affect one or both eyes, and it can affect people of all ages, even children. Possible causes of uveitis are infection, injury, or an autoimmune or inflammatory disease, though many times a cause cannot be identified. Treatment primarily relies upon rheumatological or infectious disease approaches, although sometimes local therapy alone is sufficient.
Uveitis can be serious, leading to permanent vision loss. Early diagnosis and treatment are important to prevent complications and preserve vision. On average, advanced subspecialty care in uveitis can avoid vision loss and frequently leads to important visual improvements.
Dr. Emebet is an ophthalmologist who completed Ophthalmology training in Ethiopia more than ten years ago. She is the first eye doctor from the Sub-Saharan Africa region (except South Africa) to become a full-fledged specialist in uveitis, personally trained by Dr. Kempen in Addis Ababa. Upon completion of her training in June 2021, she became the first SSA uveitis specialist other than Dr. Kempen serving in an area of about 1 billion people, working at the MCM Eye unit in Addis Ababa.