December 14, 2021

New Training Grant Finds Kellogg Eye Center Partnering With India’s Leading Eye Hospital

Kellogg Eye Center leaders with Aravind’s Director of Operations, Thulasiraj Ravilla, at a 2018 event in Ann Arbor. Ravilla is the Co-PI on an NIH-funded training partnership with Michigan Medicine that will launch in 2022.

A new NIH-funded project supports partnership between Kellogg Eye Center and Aravind Eye Hospital to develop a clinical research training program.

The first trainees from India’s Aravind Eye Care System are expected to arrive at Michigan Medicine next spring. The initiative, led by Professor of Ophthalmology and Epidemiology David Musch, PhD, MPH, and Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and Assistant Professor at the U-M Institute for Social Research Joshua Ehrlich, MD, MPH, in partnership with Aravind’s Director of Operations, Thulasiraj Ravilla, MBA aims to create a self-sustaining research training program anchored at Aravind by the end of the five-year grant.

“The ultimate goal is for the people we train here to go back and be trainers at Aravind themselves, benefiting not only their own institution but eventually other institutions across India and globally,” said Musch.

The Aravind Eye Care System comprises 14 hospitals and dozens of clinics across South India. Known for their efficiency and high clinical volumes, Aravind’s doctors perform nearly half a million surgeries or procedures a year – many at low or even no cost to their patients – making Aravind the largest eye care provider in the world. With a track record that emphasizes not only high-volumes but also good patient outcomes, Aravind’s processes are widely recognized as an international model in the field. Through the new partnership, it is hoped the organization will begin to develop a reputation for research as well.

“Their clinical volumes are enormous and they recognize that there is a wealth of data there that could be more fully harnessed to improve eye care delivery and prevent blindness and visual impairment" said Ehrlich. “They approached us with a desire to develop research skills and sustainable research capacity, something they legitimately see as the next step in their path to achieve their goal: eliminating needless blindness in India.”

India is home to over 17% of the world’s population and to 25% of those who are blind or visually impaired worldwide. Over 90% of vision loss in India is due to non-communicable eye disease, the majority of which is avoidable. With this in mind, the training curriculum will emphasize research to improve detection, prevention, and treatment of non-communicable eye disease.

Two Aravind ophthalmologists will visit U-M  each year to enroll in courses and work alongside Kellogg Eye Center and other University of Michigan faculty engaged in research. The $1.1 million NIH award will support not only the training in Ann Arbor, but will also provide seed funding for the participants to jump-start their own mentored research once they return to Aravind. The chance to advance and deepen the relationship with one of the world’s most successful—and unique—eye care organizations will benefit Michigan Medicine, too, said Musch.

“This is a wonderful opportunity, both for our friends and colleagues at Aravind and for us as well. Invariably, such projects lead to a rich two-way exchange of perspectives, knowledge, and ideas” he said.