YDEF Retinopathy 2015: the trainee perspective

Written by Amar Puttanna on 18 February 2016. Modified on 09 March 2016. Hits: 3032

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On the 7th-8th December 2015, 22 trainees attended the YDEF Retinopathy course in Birmingham. This was a well received and enjoyable event and below is a short overview of the day from one of the attendees.

Early in December last year just over 20 diabetes specialist registrars, from around the country, congregated at Heart of England's Diabetic Eye Screening Centre for the 4th YDEF "Diabetic Retinopathy and Screening for Diabetologists". This was once again oversubscribed and looks set to be a firm fixture in the YDEF calendar. I was about to find out why.


The course is led by Professor Paul Dodson who had been a key figure in setting up the diabetic eye screening service (DESS). As a diabetologist turned medical ophthalmologist he is passionate about making retinopathy and DESS both relevant and interesting to diabetes trainees in an era, when to many, it has become a discrete service without us.
We kicked off with Dodson and his enthusiastic team taking us back to basics. We covered the principles of retinopathy, the practicalities of how to grade retinal screening photographs, which photos to refer and potential treatment options.
We then had the opportunity over the remainder of the two day course to put this into practice. The Eye Screening Centre in Birmingham is where the graders themselves are initially taught and was therefore perfectly set up for each of us to have our own live grading computer facility within their lab. We were soon debating whether a "fluffy" area was an exudate or cotton wool spot! By the end of the course we were confidently labelling images using the retinopathy (R0-3(s)), maculopathy (M0-1), photocoagulation (P) or ungradable (UG) criteria.  To keep us on our toes the occasional non-diabetic related eye disease was added to the mix; just like in the real programme.

Alongside the key grading sessions we also had a number of eye-opening talks. The first was a fascinating insight into the practicalities of setting something such as a national DESS up. The logistics were a much greater undertaking than initially predicted and they came across a number of unexpected challenges along the way but ultimately persevered!
Another highlight was a lecture on bariatric surgery and microvascular complications given by Dr Abd Tahrani. A speaker not to be missed!
Finally a reminder of why all of this is important - the patients perspective. We heard from a lady, now registered blind from retinopathy, who gave us an insight into her basic daily difficulties to test blood sugars and administer her own insulin. Listening to her memories of realising that she was losing her sight was very emotive and something I had not been privy to before. In her hour of need the ophthalmologists may well be aware of the hospitals visual aid services but all of us were not, one of a number of practical tips to take away with us.

The retinopathy course not only gave us the knowledge to feel empowered again to be involved in this important part of our patients journey but also encouraged us to reflect on whether working in parallel with the DESS and ophthalmologists is going to give our patients the best outcomes in the future.

Many thanks to Professor Paul Dodson and his team, YDEF-who lead the organisation, and Boehringer Ingelheim who funded the course along with accommodation and dinner for the delegates. 

Clare Shinton ST4, Wessex Deanery 


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