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Spotlight on the Ophthalmology Section

“As far as your health is concerned, not much gets better as you grow older, but having cataract surgery really should make a big difference.”

The transformative effect of ‘the bread and butter’ work of an ophthalmic surgeon is in part what persuaded Mr Graham Duguid, President Elect of the Ophthalmology Section at the Royal Society of Medicine, to follow a career in eye surgery. That, together with the technical nature of the surgery and a fascination with the science, was what drew him in.

An enthusiasm for the specialty was perhaps inevitable after shadowing his ophthalmologist father from an early age. Mr Duguid says: “From before the age of 10 I was hearing about what was going on in work and saw for myself how cataract surgery was done in the 1970s compared with how we approach surgery today.”

50 years of ophthalmology

Indeed, when Mr Duguid presents his presidential address to the Ophthalmology Section at the Royal Society of Medicine on Thursday 13 October, he will be reflecting on 50 years of observing ophthalmology. “Some of the things I’ll be talking about will be the move from intracapsular to extracapsular cataract surgery and then to phakoemulsification, implant lens developments and also the changes in the training system for doctors pursuing ophthalmology as a career.”

He describes his talk as a timeline of innovations, some successful and still in use today, and others that were promoted but sank without trace along the way. He will also be talking about some of the important changes in disease management. “For example, when I started training in the 1990s, HIV retinopathy was a terrible disease which was very difficult to treat, with patients probably not surviving a year. Now, thanks to triple therapy for HIV, it’s rare to see people affected. The management of macular degeneration and diabetic eye disease has also completely changed with the arrival of intravitreal injections that can control macular oedema.”

Career path

Mr Duguid trained in Aberdeen and after medical school taught anatomy in Glasgow for a year before travelling to Melbourne to undertake research, returning to London in 1990 where he spent a month in the RSM Library writing up his MD thesis. “With access to all the journals, the RSM Library was a great facility then and is even better now, with the e-journals making searching the literature so much more flexible.”

After specialty training at Charing Cross Hospital and Moorfields Eye Hospital, Mr Duguid was appointed to London’s Western Eye Hospital in 2001 as a consultant ophthalmologist. He specialises in vitreo-retinal surgery, treating conditions at the back of the eye such as retinal detachment and complications related to diabetic retinopathy.

Education highlights in 2021/22

Planning for the Ophthalmology Section's academic programme for 2022/23 is currently underway. Nine postgraduate scientific meetings are held each year, which usually take place on a Thursday evening. The programme culminates in a prize meeting for medical students and trainees in June, including an oral presentation prize, which this year was awarded to Dr Randa Abu-Youssef. A PhD Candidate in Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Cambridge, Dr Abu-Youseff won the award for work on the regeneration of the optic nerve through gene therapy that targets axon trafficking.

Looking forward to the 2022/23 events programme, the aim of Mr Duguid and his colleagues on the Section Council is to continue making programmes appealing to a wider audience, such as the innovation in glaucoma surgery meeting on Thursday 10 November which will cover wound healing and sustained release medications, as well as surgery.

He is also aiming to start developing a national network of RSM representatives in other areas to promote events through teaching networks within ophthalmology departments around the country.

“The postgraduate education, coupled with the large number of inter-disciplinary specialties, makes the RSM stand apart as an educational establishment,” he says. “The huge number of interesting presentations and education opportunities, combined with the library services, social facilities and hotel, make it a unique facility for doctors.”

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