By Nora Laberee
Scheie Vision Annual Report 2018
Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) is an eye disorder that can affect premature babies, especially those born before 31 weeks of pregnancy and weighing less than 2.5 pounds. Characterized by abnormal blood vessel growth that may lead to retinal detachment, the disorder is potentially blinding and is one of the leading causes of vision loss and blindness in children born prematurely. As the health systems in countries around the world continue to develop, premature babies are surviving at higher rates. This positive development, however, comes with an increased risk of ROP in the surviving premature babies.
Graham Quinn, MD, MSCE, has been studying ROP since his fellowship at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in the late 1970s. Interested over decades in the burden of ROP in other countries, Dr. Quinn, along with colleagues Professor Clare Gilbert of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Professor Brian Darlow, a neonatologist from Otago University in Christchurch, New Zealand, created the ROP workshop program. With impact spanning the globe, the program is aimed at teaching and collaborating with doctors and nurses to develop programs for each region to detect and treat ROP.
Dr. Quinn has traveled to dozens of countries spanning six continents, helping to run workshops, talks, and meetings to assist local doctors in their efforts to detect and treat severe forms of retinopathy of prematurity. Dr. Quinn’s work focuses on giving local healthcare providers the tools and knowledge they need to fight ROP in their own populations. “It’s such a privilege to help people take care of their own kids,” said Dr. Quinn. “This has been so rewarding.” He emphasizes that the whole approach is not to go in and fix the problem, but to help doctors worldwide to step in and take care of their own kids in a given region, city, or country.
The doctors and caregivers working in these countries are a source of inspiration. “You meet heroes when you undertake an effort like this,” Dr. Quinn said. He cites his close friend Luz Gordillo, MD of Lima, Peru as one of these heroes. Dr. Gordillo did her fellowship in the US, and when she returned to Peru, she was struck by the severity of ROP blindness prevalence in her home country. She decided to take action, and singlehandedly implemented treatment and prevention efforts that eventually extended country-wide. “Twenty years later, she will still hop on a plane to treat a child whenever she is called,” Dr. Quinn said.
Since 2006, Dr. Quinn has helped to host a series of ROP World Congresses in Lithuania, India, China, and Mexico, in order to bring together ophthalmologists, nurses, and neonatologists to network, learn, and support each other. Another world congress is on the horizon in the next couple of years. Most recently, Dr. Quinn and other researchers at CHOP have published papers on the use of telemedicine in ROP screening and how growth of a premature infant may help determine which babies are at risk for ROP.
As ROP becomes a more common disorder worldwide, more prevention efforts are necessary, and Dr. Quinn points to the next generation for continued efforts on this front. Dr. Quinn is looking forward to his upcoming trips to Rome and Budapest, where he is working with colleagues on longstanding projects. Of his decades of global work on ROP prevention and treatment, Dr. Quinn said “Enabling physicians and nurses to take care of their kids makes it all worth it.”