Microsurgery course update

April 11, 2023 Associate Professor Graham Wilson

In late January and early February this year, the University of Sydney ran two microsurgical courses, for the first time requiring first-year RANZCO trainees to attend. Both courses were packed with the usual corneal suturing of pigs’ eyes, EyeSi simulator time, eyelid operations on human cadavers, brief lectures and learning to tie surgical knots with ropes.

Dr Nigel Cox, a UK-based retired consultant ophthalmologist who established the UK version of the course in the early 1990s, attended and candidates were privileged to learn from his decades of surgical teaching wisdom. His popularity was obvious, with one course attendee describing him as a “a national treasure”, since Dr Cox was actually born in New South Wales!

The first course was led by myself and the second by Associate Professor Con Petsoglou. Four Kiwi ophthalmologists kindly hopped the ditch to help train the registrars: Dr Rob Jones demonstrated a plethora of oculoplastic techniques; corneal surgeon Dr Albie Covello ‘saved’ many pigs’ eyes from blindness; Dr Oliver Comyn proved to be a super teacher, while having a lot of fun on the simulator; and Dr Liz Connor was extremely helpful with strabismus surgical approaches in this, her inaugural microsurgical skills course tutoring tour of duty.

RANZCO censor-in-chief Dr Andrew Thompson paid a visit and described the course as well-organised, comprehensive and hugely beneficial for trainees starting out on the vocational training programme. “Trainees got a lot out of the course and it was satisfying to see their improvement in microsurgical techniques in a matter of hours. Graham and Con should be congratulated on an excellent course.”

I’m pleased to say course attendees were also quick to praise their experience. Dr Charlotte Jordan said it was an excellent introduction to ophthalmic surgery for both experienced and non-experienced registrars. “I loved learning with my new colleagues in a supportive and caring environment and it has given me more confidence when starting as a registrar.” Drs Lewis Fry and Henry Wallace thanked organisers, noting their passion and how much they both learnt from the course. “It is head and shoulders above any course I’ve ever done, in terms of usefulness, learning and enjoyment,” said Dr Wallace. Dr Sunny Li said she found it an invaluable experience. “We got hands-on practice coupled with extremely passionate and experienced teachers. This made it a very enjoyable and engaging course. I found myself gaining confidence in various microsurgical skills and would highly recommend the course to anybody.”

Set in the beautiful heritage buildings of Sydney Eye Hospital, overlooking the botanical gardens, the Sydney microsurgical course offers the ultimate preparation for ophthalmology training programmes, said attendee Dr Liam Walsh. “The training is intensive and diverse, beginning with the types of needles and suture material, through to emergency canthotomy procedures on cadavers and ending with full realistic simulations with phacoemulsification machines. One of the highlights was the one-on-one mentoring and teaching from senior consultants, who patiently critiqued my procedures until I felt much more comfortable performing them.”

All of which about sums it up! Thanks to all those who attended and taught so enthusiastically. The next course will be in the second half of 2023 and I look forward to seeing many more of you there.

Associate Professor Graham Wilson is a Gisborne-based ophthalmologist and principal investigator (Vision) for the Dunedin Study. His research interests also include Māori eye health, children’s eyes and population health, and using OCT and other ophthalmic assessments as early biomarkers of brain injury.