Hamilton Eye Institute Uses Telemedicine to Reach Panamanian Patients

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The UTHSC Hamilton Eye Institute will present its first live teleconference meeting from Panama City, Panama, as part of the inauguration of the new Retinoblastoma Center at the Panama City Children’s Hospital on November 29.

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) Hamilton Eye Institute will present its first live teleconference meeting from Panama City, Panama, as part of the inauguration of the new Retinoblastoma Center at the Panama City Children’s Hospital on November 29. This new center is the result of collaboration between the Hamilton Eye Institute (HEI), the 2020 Foundation of Panama and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Panamanian Congressman Jorge Alvarado played a pivotal role in launching the center.

This conference will highlight the potential for international telemedicine consultations in diseases such as retinoblastoma and retinopathy of prematurity, which is a significant cause of childhood blindness throughout Latin America.

. The burden of treatment for these complex disorders lies with local physicians in developing countries who may not have the clinical volume to develop the expertise that physicians in large United States referral centers can offer. “The goal of the Hamilton Eye Institute is to become more than a regional referral center for complex diseases,” said Barrett G. Haik, MD, chairman of the UT Health Science Center Ophthalmology Department. “Our hope is to develop into a leader in prevention and treatment of blindness worldwide.”

Dr. Haik and James Hart, MD, UTHSC assistant professor, will evaluate retinoblastoma patients with technical support by Blanca Phillips, UTHSC Telemedicine and Tumor Center coordinator, at the Panamanian Children’s Hospital. Jorge I. Calzada, MD, vitreoretinal specialist and instructor at the UTHSC Department of Ophthalmology, will serve as a consultant from the HEI Freeman Auditorium in Memphis via teleconference during live examinations of patients with retinopathy of prematurity.

As part of the clinical education program of this event, Dr. Haik will present “Modern Management of Retinoblastoma” in the hospital auditorium in Panama. Dr. Calzada will then lecture from HEI in Memphis on “Retinopathy of Prematurity” to the pediatricians and ophthalmologists of Panama

The partnership between Hamilton Eye Institute and Panama has grown from personal relationships and friendships between colleagues to formal agreements with local charity foundations, hospitals and the Panamanian government. The relationship began when Dr. Haik trained Ernesto Calvo, MD, in oculoplastic surgery and ophthalmic oncology. Dr. Calvo returned to his home country of Panama and has become a prominent ophthalmologist and philanthropist. He founded the Fundacion Pro-Vision 2020, which provides specialty ophthalmology care to Panamanian underserved and indigent patients. This foundation has already helped hundreds of local patients with cataract surgery operations.

Dr. Calzada, a physician born and raised in Panama, later trained under Dr. Haik in Memphis, where Dr. Calzada finished his ophthalmology residency at UTHSC. Dr. Calzada practiced in Panama for two years with Dr. Calvo, assisting him in the development of the foundation. Since then, Dr. Calzada returned to Memphis where he is a vitreoretinal specialist at the HEI and the Charles Retina Institute.