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Fellowship Pediatric Ophthalmology, Panama

I hope to learn as much as possible if accepted into your competitive fellowship program in pediatric ophthalmology so that I will be further prepared to meet my long-term goal, the daunting task of making eye care for children more accessible in my country, Panama. There are four pediatric ophthalmologists in Panama. Three work for the social security system exclusively on behalf of the children of parents who have formal employment, about half of our population. That leaves one pediatric ophthalmologist in the entire country available to help the children of the other half of our people, those who make their living through informal employment, the underemployed, and the unemployed, many of whom live in remote areas.  Patients and their parents must travel from all over the country to the city. Many travel 5 hours by horse to catch a bus and then travel another 6 hours to reach our facilities, if they can afford the consultation and subsequent treatment, in addition to the bus ticket and losing at least two days of work.

Children with congenital cataracts, strabismus, ptosis, and other severe conditions like retinoblastoma, need to receive early treatment, to avoid permanent damage.  If they can’t afford to travel for attention, surgery, or follow-up promptly: in many cases, it is simply too late. So we face a race against time with very few resources to count on.

I look forward to discussing issues like these with my colleagues from all over the world, especially those who are aware of the challenges that we face as a profession in developing countries.

The good news for us in Panama is that there are a few programs held 2 or 3 times a year in which ophthalmologists volunteer to go to a designated area to perform evaluations and surgery on children who need it. Because of the absence of pediatric ophthalmologists, however, these volunteers are either general ophthalmologists, or specialists in other areas, so they are really only qualified to perform the most basic of pediatric surgeries, what they have learned and practiced in their residencies. I hope to work with and through our national government in support of similar, broader initiatives in the future.

I am ECFMG certified, and have passed USMLE Step 3. I also completed a three-month (February-April 2014) observership in Pediatric Ophthalmology at XXXX Eye Institute, in Miami, assisting Dr. XXXX and Dr. XXXX. These fine doctors are willing to serve as references on my behalf. Despite being born and raised in Panama, I have traveled to the USA many times. My brothers live in Miami. This has resulted in my being a near-native speaker and writer of English.

Even though my parents grew up in poverty, my father became an ophthalmologist and a perfectionist as well. This provided me with a strong and very early exposure to our vocation. My father has also been a great inspiration in instilling in his daughter a profound desire to help the underserved, especially children. Children and pediatrics are my extraordinary life passion and area of intense personal research, everything having to do with the challenges of pediatric ophthalmology.

I am applying to your particularly distinguished program at XXXX because I seek a complete immersion in the most advanced evaluation and diagnostic technology available on the planet, as I give my all to learning everything that I can about treatment and surgical procedures.

Thank you for considering my application.

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