Heroes of Orbis: Dr. Alemayehu Sisay M.D MPH

Dr. Alemayehu Sisay is Orbis Ethiopia Country Director and a Senior ophthalmologist. He is one of the leading trachoma experts globally and a strong advocate for comprehensive eye care to help improve lives and build equality around the world.

Alemayehu is deeply passionate about eliminating trachoma and making cataract surgical services accessible and affordable to the communities who need it the most - particularly in the southern rural regions of Ethiopia.

With Dr. Sisay leading the charge against avoidable blindness in the region, Orbis is tackling more than 80% of preventable causes blindness such as cataract, trachoma and refractive errors.

Dr. Sisay speaking to Optometry Today about trachoma elimination successes

Skills & Expertise

Dr. Sisay leads Orbis's fight against avoidable blindness in Ethiopia

Dr. Sisay received his Doctor of Medicine and Certificate of Ophthalmology from Addis Ababa University in 2004, and his Master of Public Health in 2008 from Addis Continental Institute of Public Health and University of Gondar. He has worked with Orbis International since 2003 when he joined as a Program Manager.

Overall, Dr. Alemayehu has over 20 years of experience in clinical and public health practices in Ethiopia and globally, and has rich expertise in project development, program management, strategic planning, monitoring and evaluation, and strategic leadership in eye care.

His day-to-day work spans from community level engagement and preventing and treating trachoma to the establishment of tertiary eye institutes to address pediatric ophthalmology and other subspecialty eye care services.

Orbis's Zada Health Centre in the rural area of Dita Woreda, Ethiopia

Orbis's Zada Health Centre in the rural area of Dita Woreda, Ethiopia

Eliminating Trachoma

1.8 million people have been left visually impaired by trachoma

1.8 million people have been left visually impaired by trachoma

Dr. Sisay leads one of the largest trachoma elimination operations in Ethiopia transforming the lives of over 11 million people annually. He also provides technical and managerial support to a program that delivers tens of thousands of trachoma trichotamous surgeries annually.

Over the years, Dr. Alemayehu has led trachoma control projects including Mass Antibiotic Distribution (of azithromycin) and the implementation of the other SAFE strategy interventions along with our partners. An important part of his role is providing training to mid-level health workers, such as integrated eye care workers, community health workers, women group leaders and teachers in primary eye care. He's also led on the development of training materials to help fight the spread of the most infectious cause of blindness worldwide.

He once told Orbis: "I do love football but my true passion is helping the poor, particularly relieving the pain and suffering of mothers from the scourge of trachomatous trichiasis. I envision a world where no one is blind from this preventable infectious disease! That is my true passion!"

Dr. Alemayehu Sisay M.D.

Country Director of Orbis International in Ethiopia

I do love foot­ball but my true pas­sion is help­ing the poor, par­tic­u­lar­ly reliev­ing the pain and suf­fer­ing of moth­ers from the scourge of Tra­choma­tous Trichi­a­sis. I envi­sion a world where no one is blind from this pre­ventable infec­tious dis­ease! That is my true passion!”

Gallery: Dr. Sisay at Orbis Ethiopia's 20th anniversary celebrations

Speaking about the future of eye care in Ethiopia on the 20th anniversary of Orbis in Ethiopia back in 2018, Dr. Sisay told Optometry Today: "I believe that we will eradicate trachoma. Trachoma is the leading infectious disease and Ethiopia has the highest burden of it in the world – more than 46% of the global trachoma burden is in Ethiopia. A significant achievement in recent years has been the location of resources for eliminating blinding trachoma from Ethiopia, with the Government committing to an annual budget to help fight this. I believe that with the current momentum, we will eliminate trachoma in the coming years.

"Understanding the value of eye care is increasing and people are demanding a better eye care service now. By investing in eye care, we are contributing to Orbis achieving sustainable development goals – without eye care, without vision, the vicious cycle of poverty and blindness is there.

"It requires a long-term investment, it requires behavioural change, it requires community and public awareness, and decision-makers taking responsibility. So yes, we have created a momentum, but it is not yet done. People are ageing and life expectancy is increasing, so we have an increased change of experiencing eye care issues. We have a growing ageing population and with that comes age-related macular degeneration, cataract and glaucoma. As a result, the demographic change of eye care diseases from infectious to non-infectious is mounting, so there is a lot of work still to be done."

Thank you Dr. Sisay for inspiring us with your passion and commitment to eliminating avoidable causes of blindness and helping transform the way communities in Ethiopia see. You're a true Hero of Orbis.

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