OWL recently conducted a Q&A with Leela Raju, MD, chief of the Ophthalmology Service at Bellevue Hospital and a clinical associate professor at NYU Langone Health in New York.
Dr. Raju, how has being a member of OWL impacted your career?
The connections I’ve made with industry as well as physicians through OWL have been great for expanding both my own personal network and my opportunities to collaborate and become involved on a national stage.
Which ophthalmic organizations are you currently working with and/or passionate about getting involved with and why?
I’ve been very lucky to be involved for many years with the Eye Foundation of America (EFA), which was started by my father almost 40 years ago. Dr. V.K. Raju continues to practice today as a cornea specialist in West Virginia. It is beneficial to network through OWL with industry colleagues who have been incredibly supportive of EFA over many years and help them understand the needs in developing countries. It also helps me let my ophthalmology colleagues know what kind of work we are doing.
I have acted as secretary for EFA for the last 10 years, and I am also its education coordinator. At the hospital we help support in Andhra Pradesh, India, called Goutami Eye Hospital, I help organize residents and medical students and even some international physician fellowships. We’re also in the process of building an international ophthalmology division at NYU, where I am an associate professor. I hope these two programs can work together in the future to improve education and research for patients in both countries.
What is the focus of your mission trips?
Do you have
trips planned for the near future?
Our focus at EFA has been pediatric ophthalmology and preventing avoidable blindness. This has meant getting glasses to school children who need them and screening for retinopathy of prematurity in our local area (one of the few programs in the state). The 100,000 Lives Campaign from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement is part of that effort because of the exponentially increasing burden of diabetes and resulting eye disease. We want to do our best to make sure that we reach all of these patients early.
I will be going to India again at the end of the year, and my father goes multiple times a year. We’ve also been working on a new project in Ghana with Dr. Seth Wayne at Friends Eye Centre in Kumasi, Ghana, and Project Theia. We’re hoping to reach an area in Ghana that has been traditionally underserved, especially for children.
How has being affiliated with an organization like OWL helped to advance the mission and vision of Eye Foundation of America?
I would say OWL has helped by just creating an environment for the kind of connections that improve international work, especially when it’s charity work. These things tend to be very collaborative, and the only way you avoid reinventing the wheel is by knowing who is doing what out there. Meeting people like Bindu Manne who have that ability to connect people has been incredibly helpful, and she’s helped introduce me to other nonprofits that are trying to achieve the same goals. The ability to connect ophthalmology-related organizations, charitable organizations and physicians is something that OWL’s membership does really well.
To learn more about OWL, visit www.owlsite.org.