Meet Dr. Dupe-Ademola-Popoola, Nigeria

As Megan Webber delved into the heart of Dr.Popoola’s ongoing efforts, their conversation navigated the journey of sustainability in awareness campaigns. Learning from past challenges, they envisioned flexible and durable awareness materials, transcending the limitations of traditional flyers. The shift to “flex material” flyers, available in various sizes and distributed via WhatsApp groups and large format prints, aimed to amplify visibility and longevity beyond the campaign’s tenure offers great promise. Dupe stressed to Megan the importance of families supporting one another along the way, even financially, as the country does not cover any treatment expenses. Each family is burdened with finding the money for treatment, leading to many abandoning care for their child.

Dr. Dupe’s vision extends to leveraging technology for wider outreach. She has pioneered virtual training programs using Telvis kits, focusing on retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) and retinoblastoma (RB). Her commitment to accessibility birthed the Tele-eye App and a referral website, bridging the gap for children worldwide seeking specialized care. These kits have been used to train community health workers, nurses at immunization clinics, and teachers at schools. Over the past 5 years, she made a conscious effort to focus on ROP and retinoblastoma, using all available means to educate both near and far through WhatsApp groups, radio, print, workshops, and collaborations with ocular oncologists and ophthalmologists worldwide. Last January, Dr. Didi Fabian joined Dr. Popoola in Nigeria to set up an intraocular chemotherapy lab, leading to great success. 

One of Dr. Popoola’s newest aspirations is the RB Care Alliance of Nigeria (RBCAN), a forthcoming NGO aiming to advocate for early detection, intervention, and rehabilitation. Financial constraints often hinder families’ access to care, underscoring the critical need for sustainable funding and support. With RBCAN, they aim to involve parents and family members alongside core physicians, hoping to collaborate with other NGOs to fulfill their purpose of coordinating care from awareness through treatment in the country and beyond. Dr. Popoola has also developed WhatsApp groups, and an upcoming website, Coming at the challenge of vision care coordination from all angles. She hopes that an upcoming referral app will go viral, enabling anyone, anywhere, to refer a child to higher care near their home. Dr. Popoola lamented to Megan that it can take over two years for a child to be properly referred, which she finds completely unacceptable. She is determined to make a difference in outcomes for these children. In 2007, the number of children coming to her with extraocular RB was alarming, but today, less than 10% of cases present with a protruding eye. While there is still much work to do, this is a significant improvement from 2007 and is an example for the region!

Dr. Dupe Ademola-Popoola has seen much change over the years and is optimistic about the future.  Her unwavering commitment to transforming child eye care in Nigeria stands as a testament to the power of perseverance and collaborative advocacy. Her visionary approach, encompassing coordinated advocacy, technology, and community engagement, paves the way for a future where every child has access to early eye care intervention.

As Megan Webber and Dr. Dupe Ademola-Popoola’s conversation culminated in a shared vision for sustainable awareness, their collaboration promises a brighter future, where awareness translates into tangible, life-altering changes for children’s eye health in Nigeria and beyond.