Mongolian pediatric ophthalmologist, Dr. Shamsiya Murat

Saving Children's Sight: 7 Questions With Dr. Shamsiya Murat

September 2020

Marla — the adorable girl with special pink glasses — has become quite the celebrity in the Orbis community. Dr. Shamsiya Murat, an Orbis-trained doctor from Mongolia, saved Marla's sight when she was just 42 days old.

We took a moment with Dr. Murat to reflect on her Orbis training, her dedication to prevent blindness in children... and, of course, her thoughts on little Marla.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A PEDIATRIC EYE DOCTOR?

My mother is a pediatric neurologist, and she encouraged me to go into medicine, so I did. My fourth class in medical school was ophthalmology. I was only 21 years old and I was fascinated! The first presentation in the class was about closed-angle glaucoma. I was just really interested from the very beginning.

Marla was born with congenital cataracts and treated by our local partner hospital in Mongolia

Helping children like Marla see clearly inspires Dr. Murat to do her very best in the fight against preventable blindness

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR ORBIS TRAINING EXPERIENCES?

Sure. My first Orbis training was when I was a second-year resident in 2001. The Flying Eye Hospital landed in my city of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. I participated in simulation training on artificial eyes. My second Orbis Flying Eye Hospital training was in 2014 when I was not yet fully specialized in pediatrics ophthalmology. I was just starting my cataract training — and the foundation came from Orbis and Dr. Daniel Neely. I learned so many things from Dr. Neely, like how to do my very first cataract surgery! So I'm really thankful for him.

Dr. Daniel Neely screening a young boy in Mongolia in the presence of local trainees

Orbis Volunteer Faculty Dr. Daniel Neely shows Dr. Murat and another medical resident how to examine a pediatric cataract patient in 2014

HOW DID YOUR FELLOWSHIP IN INDIA STRENGTHEN YOUR SKILLS TO TREAT PREVENTABLE BLINDNESS IN MONGOLIA?

First, I want to say thank you to Orbis and their supporters for the opportunity to study in India. I learned so many things from my fellowship at the world-famous hospital institute, LV Prasad.

I trained there for 15 months, learning about pediatric cataracts, strabismus, and general ophthalmology. Most importantly, I learned more diagnostic screening techniques for treating cataracts in children.

Dr  Shamsiya Murat Bugbee completed an Orbis-sponsored fellowship in India

Thanks to generous supporters, Dr. Murat completed an Orbis-sponsored fellowship in pediatric ophthalmology in India

With the new skills and knowledge gained during her 15-month fellowship, Dr. Murat transformed the pediatric eye care services at her hospital in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia — making healthy sight a reality for generations

LET'S TALK ABOUT LITTLE MARLA. WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT HER VISION LOSS AND TREATMENT?

When Marla was 19 days old, her parents took her to the National Center for Maternal and Child Health (NCMCH), the hospital where I work. Both parents and maternal grandmother were born with congenital cataracts and suffer from vision loss. They wanted the best life possible for their little girl. Marla's mother had surgery when she was two years old, but that was too late. That's why the grandmother was insistent about bringing Marla to the hospital right away...to prevent another generation from living in blindness. I confirmed the diagnosis: congenital cataracts. We needed to act quickly to prevent permanent vision loss in this sweet baby.

If congenital cataracts aren't treated when an infant is between 6 and 8 weeks old, the child will suffer permanent vision loss. I performed the surgery on Marla when she was 42 days old. She became the youngest person in Mongolia to receive cataract surgery.

Marla's mother and grandmother were also born with congenital cataracts

Marla — shown here at 7 months old with her mother — loves the color pink, things that sparkle, and toy cars

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You are the key to ensuring that generations of children like Marla enjoy healthy sight and bright futures

HOW HAS COVID-19 AFFECTED URGENT EYE CARE IN MONGOLIA?

COVID-19 has impacted our patients and our work. Earlier in the pandemic, we had a shortage of resources due to the supply chain disruptions. We had to prioritize the most urgent cases, including infants.

Thankfully, cataract surgeries are starting to pick up now because we are starting to receive medications and other needed resources.

ORBIS HEROES FIGHTING ON THE FRONT LINES - INTERACTIVE TIMELINE

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WHAT WILL IT MEAN TO HAVE THE FLYING EYE HOSPITAL RETURN TO MONGOLIA WHEN THE RESTRICTIONS ARE LIFTED?

While it's sad that The Flying Eye Hospital's trip to Mongolia needed to be canceled this year due to the pandemic, we are grateful for Cybersight. Our doctors dealing with complicated cases use Orbis's telemedicine platform to get the consultations they need to give their patients the best care possible.

Our Flying Eye Hospital is currently grounded due to Covid-19

The Flying Eye Hospital is temporarily grounded due to COVID-19, but urgent sight-saving work continues around the world.

WHAT IS YOUR HOPE FOR THE FUTURE OF PEDIATRIC EYE CARE IN MONGOLIA?

I see a very bright future for the ophthalmology sector and patient care in Mongolia. There's a lot of progress bringing so much technology and know-how throughout the country.

We had doctors from the 6 provinces who came to the NCMCH for training. They were very enthusiastic and eager to learn. Most importantly, they want to work permanently in their provinces, bringing their new vision-saving skills to their communities.

Dr. Shamsiya Murat, hands on surgeon trainee on multiple FEH and HBT Orbis programs in Mongolia

Generations of Healthy Sight — thanks to Orbis-trained doctors, Orbis volunteer faculty, and caring supporters like you

We’d like to say a huge thank you to Dr. Murat for her dedication to saving children’s vision – and ensuring healthy sight for generations.

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