IU’s optometry, medicine schools announce exchange program with eye institutes, hospitals in India

September 6, 2012

Students from India are already working in biochemistry, biology and physics labs at Indiana University (IU) this summer through the Khorana Scholars Program. Through a new exchange program initiated by IU, optometry and ophthalmology students at IU and in India will be offered new educational and research opportunities. Khorana scholars pictured above are, clockwise from back left, Divya Ganapathi Sankara, Sachin Sethi, Priyadarshina Ravindran, Niveditha Damodaren, Devanshi Khare and Swati Varshney.
Photo courtesy of Indiana University

Indiana University (IU) Schools of Optometry and Medicine are creating a new academic exchange program, the Indo-U.S. Exchange Program for Optometry and Ophthalmology, with four eye institutes and hospitals in India.

The two-year pilot program will provide the opportunity for IU School of Optometry residents to enhance postgraduate training with a monthlong trip to eye institutes and hospitals in Chennai, Mumbai and Hyderabad, India. In turn, eye care professionals from participating institutions in India will spend one month in the United States visiting the IU School of Optometry in Bloomington and the Glick Eye Institute at the IU School of Medicine in Indianapolis.

“This collaboration will provide important opportunities for our students to expand their training horizons and for IU to develop its network of relationships within India, a critical educational partner,” said IU Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel.

The new exchange program builds on IU’s growing academic relationship with educational and research institutions in India.

“This exchange program will provide expanded educational opportunities for IU School of Optometry residents,” said IU School of Optometry Dean Joseph A. Bonanno, O.D., Ph.D. “They will encounter large numbers of ocular disorders, especially those that are uncommon in the U.S. They will also see, first hand, alternative approaches to high-volume health care.”

Dr. Bonanno added that this type of exchange program is unique to optometric residencies and therefore is expected to attract individuals looking for a diverse experience.

Eight eye care professionals from India and eight IU optometry residents will participate in the exchange program during the first two years, at which point additional optometry and ophthalmology institutions within the United States will be invited to join the IU program.

“The new exchange program’s mission is to develop an understanding between the participants of the level of training and scope of practice of U.S. and Indian optometrists and ophthalmologists while also providing opportunities to enhance clinical training and research opportunities,” said Sarita Soni, O.D., professor of optometry and vice provost for research at IU Bloomington. “Future goals include the development of a long-term relationship facilitating the exchange of ideas on clinical care and the development of collaborative research in vision.”

Participating institutions in India are Sankara Nethralaya, a nonprofit eye institute in Chennai, LV Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad, and Hinduja Hospital and Shroff Eye Hospital, both in Mumbai. Principal investigators for IU are Dr. Soni, Jeffrey Perotti, O.D. (IU Optometry), and Louis Cantor, M.D. (Glick Eye Institute).

IU and its Indian partners will provide about 70 percent of the estimated $410,000 cost of the two-year pilot program, with the Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum providing the remaining support.

“This new Indo-U.S. exchange initiative in optometry and ophthalmology between Indiana University and Indian eye care institutions is a welcome development,” said Gullapalli N. Rao, chair of the LV Prasad Eye Institute. “This will facilitate a broad range of collaborations in education and research that can potentially lead to enhancing the quality of education, as well as addressing bigger research questions. This initial phase of interaction will pave the path to these endeavors, so we are excited about this opportunity of working with our colleagues at Indiana University.”

The Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum, established under an agreement between the U.S. and India governments, is a not-for-profit society that promotes Indo-U.S. collaborations in science, technology, engineering and biomedical research through interaction among government, academia and industry.

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