Dr. Lesya Shuba brings brighter futures to children with glaucoma

April 2020

Having worked as a clinical ophthalmologist for 15 years, as well as being an associate professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Dr. Lesya Shuba was eager to share her knowledge with eye health workers in Ghana and help them better treat eye conditions like glaucoma.

The little girl in the pink princess dress stands out clearly in the memory of Dr. Lesya Shuba. The Halifax ophthalmologist was taking part in her first program aboard Orbis’s Flying Eye Hospital last November in Accra, Ghana and meeting with her potential patients. Just four or five years old, this tiny girl was all done up for her visit with the doctor who had come to see her from Canada.

“She was just so cute, but you could see how scared she was at the same time,” says Shuba. “She had these big, big eyes. Big eyes in children, quite often, is a sign of advanced childhood glaucoma. So, she had these big, beautiful eyes, but unfortunately, they were very sick eyes.”

The girl, who only had vision left in one eye, was one of the 11 patients on whom Shuba would operate during her week with Orbis in Ghana. Shuba’s hope was to be able to ensure the child would keep at least some of her vision, as often those living with blindness in Ghana are unable to work or support themselves as adults. Their future can be bleak.

It makes you feel good that you can help these children who are just starting their lives, and give them a chance to have productive, happy lives by saving their vision.

Dr. Lesya Shuba

Orbis Volunteer Faculty

Shuba was inspired to volunteer with Orbis by her mentor, Dr. Lee Alward, who had volunteered with the organization for many years. Having worked as a clinical ophthalmologist for 15 years, as well as holding a role as associate professor at Dalhousie University, Shuba felt confident in her abilities and embraced the training portion of her volunteer role. She was eager to share her knowledge with eye health workers in Ghana and help them better treat conditions like glaucoma.

Slideshow: Dr. Shuba trains local eye doctors on board the Flying Eye Hospital in Ghana

Walking onto the Flying Eye Hospital, it’s hard not to be amazed by how the plane melds state-of-the-art health care with a warm atmosphere, and Shuba was equally impressed with how easy the Orbis team made it for her to do the best job possible. “It was amazing, they have more things immediately available than I have at my hospital in Halifax,” she says with a smile. “Every surgeon has their likes and dislikes, special instruments you want or special sutures, and anything I would ask for, they would have it.” Shuba felt confident and well-supported.

The people who were helping us were absolutely amazing, very knowledgeable and very flexible. Everyone has their way of doing things and the nurses were just great at helping us.

During this program, there were also two residents from Ottawa as part of the team. While residents do not participate in surgeries, they were able to support during training – instructing on how to use equipment like lasers and hosting lectures. Shuba was pleased to see that a new generation of Orbis volunteers was already being developed.

Dr. Shuba poses proudly during her first trip with Orbis last November

“I think the time to get ophthalmologists involved is during their residency. The goal is to get them interested in volunteering during their training, so they would continue as they become more and more senior ophthalmologists,” she says.

Shuba is already looking forward to her next program with Orbis and to sharing her experience with her students and colleagues through future lectures and presentations.