Continuous Professional Development (CPD) for Ophthalmologists and Other Specialty Physicians in Africa

Author: Mike Blyth,

Continuous Professional Development (CPD) for Ophthalmologists and Other Specialty Physicians in Africa

By Professor Ciku Mathenge, MD (Rwanda) I Column Editor: Helena Prior Filipe, MD, MMEd

A few years ago, I was asked to write something about my own experience with CPD for a journal. In the article1, I described my own journey in trying to keep my knowledge and skills current, having realized that many of my patients knew a whole lot more about their conditions than I, a fresh graduate from residency, thought they did. I, therefore, made decisions and plans on how to keep myself at the top of my game. Those decisions included regularly attending at least one international conference a year, reading and listening to others a lot- journal articles, online articles, listening to webinars, being a member of my ophthalmic society and surrounding myself with mentors.

Many ophthalmologists, as well as physicians in other specialties on the African continent, engage in exactly these same type of activities for their own learning and development. We attend annual congresses. For my specialty, the College of Ophthalmology of Eastern Central and Southern Africa and the Ophthalmology Society of South Africa are the high-level congresses that attract participants from multiple African countries. Similarly, networks of clinicians flourish in Africa, acting as consultation and mentoring platforms. Notable examples are the African Retinal Society (ARS) Forum, the Young Ophthalmology network of the African Council of Ophthalmology. A difficult retina case seen in Nigeria will be posted on the ARS WhatsApp platform, and within minutes opinions will be provided from as far as South Africa or Egypt. Similar networks are used by other specialty physician groups in an attempt to share knowledge and to learn from the patient care experiences of colleagues.

Besides the above professional support activities, the majority of health regulatory bodies2,3 in Africa now require a certain amount of professional development every year in order for one to retain their clinical practice license. A range of 30-50 hours of CPD hours/credits must be reported each year for license renewal. This is often achieved through a mix of structured and unstructured CPD activity hours. This requirement has inadvertently led to the strengthening of professional societies, which have put in place structures to help their members achieve CPD targets. Many societies and medical regulatory bodies now provide personal portals through which members have access to their own personalized online CPD logs4. There are no concessions with respect to medical specialty, age or part-time vs fulltime workers.

CPD takes time and energy, and it will sometimes take our ophthalmologists out of their comfort zone but many have recognized that whether this is a licensing requirement or not, keeping up-to-date with what is happening in our rapidly changing field, allows one not to lose credibility and potentially expose our patients to risks. This ongoing maintenance of professional competence has become a key component in raising the standards of professionalism for the eye health services sector and all other specialties in Africa.

Prof Ciku Mathenge MD, MSc, PhD is the Director of Training and Research, Rwanda International Institute of Ophthalmology, and Chair, Education Committee, College of Ophthalmology of Eastern Central and Southern Africa.

Helena Prior Filipe, MD, MMEd, is a consultant in the College of Ophthalmology of the Portuguese Medical Association International Council of Ophthalmology, University of Lisbon, Portugal,


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