Monash University program set to improve eye health in Mildura

A new program to train Mildura-based doctors and medical students in ophthalmology, taught by a Monash alumnus, may serve to improve the eye health of local children who are currently 2.5 times as likely to be admitted to hospital for eye diseases compared to the rest of regional Victoria.

The 2018 State of Mildura City Report reveals that, between 2013 and 2016, the rate of Mildura children under 9 admitted to hospital for eye disease and complications was 14.9 per 10,000 compared to the average across regional Victoria of 10.8 per 10,000.

No separate data on Indigenous child eye health is available but it is likely to be at an even greater rate than 14.9 per 10,000 children, according to Associate Professor Shane Bullock, Acting Head of Monash Rural Health, who said that this inequity “will hopefully be addressed by this program whereby Dr Rahul Chakrabarti will assist in training our medical students in Mildura at regular clinics he will be hosting in the city,” he said.

Dr Chakrabarti is an ophthalmologist and Monash University medical graduate who completed his first year, second year and fourth-year clinical placements in Mildura. Next month, he will be returning to Mildura once a month to conduct ophthalmology clinics and provide monthly hands-on tutorials for Monash University medical students in Mildura.

Ophthalmologist Dr Rahul ChakrabartiDr Chakrabarti is involved in ophthalmic education in Melbourne for ophthalmology registrars, medical students, emergency medicine trainees and GPs and he is passionate about educating medical students in ophthalmology.

“It's not just a matter of helping patients see better, there is also the issue of making doctors more comfortable in examining eyes, whether it's in general practice or the emergency department,” he said.

“For the most part, doctors are unfamiliar with ophthalmology which is often poorly covered in medical training. It's just a matter of demystifying a lot of eye conditions through skills-based teaching.”

Dr Chakrabarti is a regular visitor to Mildura and with a regular clinical appointment, “is very happy that I now have an ongoing relationship with a town I have always loved,” he said.

“I’m also looking forward to teaching Monash students and contributing to a clinical school and faculty that taught me so much.”

Dr Rahul Chakrabarti outside Monash Rural Health Mildura

Dr Chakrabarti is a country boy, having grown up in Whyalla in South Australia, where his dad was a mining engineer. He vividly remembers the long wait his mother had to endure for gall bladder surgery because of the difficulties in getting a surgeon to a regional town.

“It's important that people in regional areas have the same access to the same surgeries that people in metro areas have, which is why I am so happy to be able to bring my clinical skills and training to Mildura on a regular basis,” he said.

Dr Chakrabarti has a Masters of Surgical Education, and currently holds a clinical lecturer position at the University of Melbourne, and is Director of Hospital Medical Officers (HMO) at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. He will next be visiting Mildura on July 8-10, working with Dr Bassili at the Mildura Eye Specialist clinic on Langtree Avenue, and doing a once per month operating list at Mildura Base Public Hospital.

You can also hear Dr Chakrabarti on ABC Mildura-Swan Hill's Breakfast Program (from 2:31:50) discussing improving eye health in Mildura with Debra Pearce.