While most of the world was still emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic and trying to make up for lost time, there are others who seized the opportunity to double down on their mission and outreach while simultaneously doubling down on forward progress. One of those individuals is Dr. Andrew Blaikie, a pediatric ophthalmologist and Senior Lecturer at the University of St. Andrews School of Medicine who, when we first met, was devoting only Wednesday afternoons weekly to promoting the practical, portable and affordable Arclight Ophthalmoscope & Otoscope designed by the equally brilliant Wiliam J. Williams. Megan Webber, Co-Founder of KTG and Helene Dameris, Director of Global Outreach were thrilled to catch up with Dr. Blaikie and Fiona Paterson, the Project Manager of the Arclight Project and we’re delighted to discover that his work outside the lecture hall on the Arclight project has grown to require far more of his time than just Wednesday afternoons.
Dr. Andrew Blaikie and Ms. Paterson brought Megan and Helene up to speed on what they affectionately refer to as “Where in the World is Dr. Blaikie?” ( a playful take on keeping track of the ever adventurous Dr. Blaikie). However, before they could delve into his travels, Dr. Blaikie directed Megan and Helene to the Arclight Project website “teaching materials” where he pointed to five different instructional videos for the reflex tests, each including translations into Swahili. Dr. Blaikie was excited to share that Kenya is one of the most influential countries with regard to vision health in Africa because of its proactive eye care services. After watching the videos, Dr. Blaikie went on further to explain to Megan and Helene that when looking at the eyes of children we should be speaking in terms of anatomy and asymmetry rather than focusing only on reflex color. Children of color in Africa may not show a red reflex but instead
their healthy fundal reflex may appear much lighter so a difference in the reflection of the two eyes is more important than just watching for a golden glow.
As far as Dr. Blaikie’s travels, it is easy to see why it is so hard to keep up with him. He is just back from Zimbabwe where he was working alongside the Global division of the Christian Blind Mission (CBM Global) to utilize the Wilson and the Arclight Ophthalmoscope & Otoscope and collect data on their use in the country. Dr. Blaikie is confident they will see a lot of progress with Arclight in the coming years. He is currently working with Dr. Aeesha Malik (previously featured by KTG https://knowtheglow.org/raising-awareness-2/) and Dr. Godfrey Furahini (a pediatric ophthalmologist at KCMC in Moshi) and they hope to present some preliminary data at COECSA this August in Nairobi, Kenya. A trip later this year will find Dr. Blaikie returning to Tanzania where he will be working with German NGO, TanZanEye, and its Project Director Dr. Karsten Paust, where their primary focus will be on identifying and treating cataracts. The year ahead has Dr Blaikie also looking at traveling to Malawi where the health students in its capital city, Lilongwe, will receive training in the use of the Arclight thanks to a generous Rotary Club grant spanning the next 3 to 5 years.
- The biggest news to share though was that the Arclight Project team is hard at work on its next exciting innovation, the “Arclight Holo” Binocular Indirect Ophthalmoscope, for examining the major growing causes of blindness in the world including retinopathy of prematurity and diabetes. Naturally , it will follow Wiliam J. Williams’ frugal engineering philosophy while still being robust, solar-powered and easy to use. As an additional benefit, for low income countries, the Holo would cost around 50 to 75 pounds (considerably less than the typical indirect ophthalmoscope which can sell anywhere from 1000-3000 pounds) and Dr. Blaikie is hopeful that it will be available in limited numbers later this year. Having this inexpensive tool could make a huge difference in low income countries.
Needless to say, it is astonishing to see all the work and progress that Dr. Blaikie and his Arclight Project team are making and KnowtheGlow is thrilled to share their news with our community and beyond. One can only imagine all the incredible work that is yet to emerge from Dr. Blaikie and his innovative and dynamic team.
(To learn more about the Arclight Project visit https://medicine.st-andrews.ac.uk/arclight/devices/the-arclight/)