Meet Dr Fatma Faraj Shawesh

Dr Shawesh is a 3rd year Ophthalmology Resident, from Tripoli, Libya. In November 2022, she took part in our Flying Eye Hospital simulation training project in Doha, dedicated to women from conflict affected areas. Whilst there, we were lucky enough to learn more about her story. Read on below...

This project took place thanks to, and under the leadership of, the Qatar Fund for Development and Qatar Charity, with on the ground support from Qatar Airways, Qatar Executive and Hamad International Airport, as well as OMEGA as the title sponsor of our Flying Eye Hospital.

Could you describe your training in ophthalmology in Libya prior to this Orbis simulation programme?

“The situation in Libya, I think has affected the health care system. So, this opportunity enabled me to see different kinds of procedure and get my hands on—and try—them and know which would be my preference. So, after returning to Libya from this experience, I will know where I'm heading.”

“Having this opportunity—getting my hands onto the latest technology and being guided by the perfect and most talented lecturers and ophthalmologists; I think it's a great opportunity that will enable me to do a lot of things in my career.”

What is the eye care situation in Libya?

“I think it's more or less the same as any part of the world. The spectrum of diseases are more or less the same, ranging from diabetic complications, cataract and retinal problems, glaucoma and like, and of course strabismus for paediatrics. Adding to these are those affected by the war—long lasting eye problems because of injuries or the like. But, more or less, the same conditions as anywhere in the world."

Dr Shawesh undertakes training for treating glaucoma with Orbis Staff Ophthalmologist Dr Omar Salamanca

What are your observations about the training in Doha on the Flying Eye Hospital?

“I think one of the things the Flying Eye Hospital has is the latest technology, and they have the latest evidence-based medicine. They are practicing the latest evidence-based medicine…”

“I have never been into surgery before, so this kind of gives me an idea about what I love, and what I don't, and what I'm good at and what I'm needing improving in. So, I can now choose my path more easily.”

“What I’ve discovered here in Doha is that I have the ability to do it…this experience has given me the confidence to just go for it.”

“On cataract and glaucoma—I’m not perfect yet, but I'm aiming to be perfect. So [this training] gave me the confidence and gave me the message that it's not impossible to carry on with this career. I'm glad for this experience.”

In what ways will you share what you’ve learned here in Doha with colleagues and residents back home in Libya?

“They have never known about Cybersight. Cybersight has so much information, and so much material to make us become better ophthalmologists. This will have an impact on changing the way that they are learning in so many ways."

“Maybe what I want to tell you is that the access of medical care or ophthalmology care for example, it's pretty good in terms of Tripoli, in terms of the big cities in Libya, but there is a shortage outside the main cities…”

“For example, I am from Tripoli, so we have like three or more big hospitals. So we have access. And at the Central Hospital we are doing a very good job in bringing the latest technology and trying to stabilize eye health after what Libya has been through these last few years. So, they are trying to improve. But outside Tripoli, it's a problem, you know?”

“Actually, whenever you have an eye problem you have to come to Tripoli. And you know, Libya is such a big country, a huge country. So, when you're coming from any other city, it will be a big, very long journey to get your eyes checked. It's not convenient for most people to come all the way just to have a check-up or surgery…so we have a shortage in just about any other city. That’s the issue.”

Dr Shawesh practices her technique for strabismus procedures

How has it been to work with other women from conflict affected countries?

“That's been quite an experience, you know? Apart from learning these skills and getting the information from the lectures, it’s been about relationships. So yeah, we are all coming from different backgrounds, and the surprising thing is that we are getting along very nicely!”

Our ophthalmic trainees and trainers on the steps of the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital

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