Leaders in Medical Education

Leaders in Medical Education - Dr. Brad Feldman, Editor in Chief of EyeWiki and Founding Director of the Wills Eye Hospital's Center for Academic Global Ophthalmology

Thasin Jaigirdar
Jun 2, 2015

Dr. Brad Feldman is an Ophthalmologist who currently works at the Wills Eye Hospital where he became the Founding Director of the Wills Eye Hospital Center for Academic Global Ophthalmology. He received his bachelors at Duke University and his Medical Degree from University of Rochester School of Medicine. He then completed his Ophthalmology residency at George Washington University where he was Chief Resident during his final year. He also serves as the editor-in-chief of EyeWiki, a free online encyclopedia for ophthalmologists. Dr. Feldman had previously been the Chair of the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s International Subcommittee of Young Ophthalmologist Committee.

How did you get interested in Medicine?
I’ve been curious about disease and healing since the age of five when my identical twin brother became acutely ill with septic shock and fell into a near fatal coma. After witnessing his rapid decline and remarkable recovery, I felt a kinship to medicine and to its many practitioners who had helped bring my best friend and closest companion back to life. While I explored many other careers throughout my education, I always gravitated back to medicine.

What drove your interests in Ophthalmology?
No one thing drove me to ophthalmology, and I feel incredibly lucky to have landed in this unique specialty — one I had not really considered as a career option until late in medical school. As is often the case in higher medical education, it was ultimately the opinions of mentors and colleagues whom I respected that led me to believe Ophthalmology would be a good fit for me. I find it an incredibly fulfilling field, one that allows me the privilege of helping preserve and heal our patients’ most sacred sense and most sensitive organs.

I have seen that you were previously awarded a grant to study the role of virtual reality simulations. How do you think simulations can help change medical education?
While there is no substitute for hands-on experience in medicine— and this is especially true in surgical specialties—virtual reality is developing a larger role for the preparation of residents for live surgery. By affording a safe environment for the refinement of surgical skills, virtual reality simulation enhances the safety of surgical training, as these simulations can translate to ophthalmic surgery in a way that wet labs with non-living non-humans eyes simply cannot accurately replicate. At Wills Eye Hospital, we’ve noticed that our residents now come into their surgical years better prepared and with better fine motor control under the microscope than in the years prior to surgical simulation.

What has been the most memorable part of your career thus far?
I love the bread and butter of what I do each week, which is the medical and surgical care of my patients with eye disease and the teaching of ophthalmology residents. But the highlights of my, admittedly, short career thus far have been working on a local, national, and international level to channel resources and personnel to address the gaps in global eye care. This began with efforts to create opportunities for my young physician peers to work with international NGOs to volunteer abroad, and then grew into advocacy through the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s Young Ophthalmologist Committee to help facilitate global forums for ophthalmologists to address their needs in education and career development. I am now privileged to lead, under the guidance of our chair, Dr. Julia Haller, the Wills Eye Hospital’s Center for Academic Global Ophthalmology, which strives to facilitate a more intelligent, efficient, and strategic approach towards global eye care and the elimination of avoidable blindness. This is the most exciting work of my career and by far the most rewarding.

Can you describe the type of work you have done as Editor-in-Chief of the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeWiki?
In this age of rapidly available and endless online information, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) was very astute to recognize that the creation of a continually updated, high volume, and freely accessible wiki would attract millions of visitors, and would help us to ensure that search engines quickly find high quality content rather than commercial, biased, or inaccurate information.  The idea for this “EyeWiki” came from the Young Ophthalmologists of the AAO.  My current work as Editor-in-Chief of the EyeWiki involves overseeing the enhancement of the content creation and review processes of the site and improving the overall user experience. Our goal is to be the first place patients, students, and healthcare practitioners alike look on the web to find detailed information about any ophthalmic disease. Just this year, we’ve had over 1 million page views, with over half of our visitors coming from outside the United States.

What changes would you like to see in eye-treatment in the world today?
Through Academic Global Ophthalmology (AGO), including in large part the educational efforts of the AAO, as well as through individual institutes such as the Wills Eye Hospital, I envision a future in which the quality of eye care delivery around the globe is elevated to a much higher standard for all. Currently, there are unacceptable gaps in ophthalmology training, even within many developed nations, that inhibit patients from receiving the services they need. I would love to see the international community recognize the importance of high quality medical and surgical eye care, and then commit resources towards improving the education and service opportunities for its practitioners. Eye care has an incredibly high return on investment to society in financial terms, and supporting AGO is an easy economic sell. The primary challenges to making the necessary changes are political, but I believe that forward looking leaders will embrace the educational and systemic reforms needed to make quality eye care a reality.

Do you have any final thoughts you would like to add?
This is an incredible time to be in medicine, and I’m continually awed by the energy, creativity, and diverse wealth of experiences of students coming into our field. If these students stay true to their passions as they develop into physicians then the world will be a much healthier and happier place. I am eager to see what the coming decades bring.