Interview with Dr. Mahmooda Rahman

Dr. Mahmooda Rahman, an amazing and inspiring pediatric Ophthalmologist at OSB(Ophthalmological Society of Bangladesh) Eye Hospital, had always admired how her mentor, Dr. Sabbir Anwar, worked with children.  There was a passion there; a desire to take the time to talk to the children and comfort them in what could be a very frightening situation.  Dr. Rahman shared with Megan Webber, Co-Founder of KnowTheGlow, that based on that experience she began to develop a plan to become an ophthalmologist.  It was not a huge surprise to her family as her father and siblings similarly pursued careers in the medical profession.   After medical school in Lahore, Pakistan, she went on to get a postgraduate degree from BCPS, Bangladesh, and then went on to Fellowship training on pediatric Ophthalmology with Sight For All at the Dr. Shroff Charity Eye Hospital in Delhi where she had the opportunity to learn under Dr. Suma Ganesh.  It was there with Dr. Ganesh that she cemented her interest in working with children.  Dr. Rahman saw the services that were provided for the children in Delhi and she recognized immediately that she needed to pursue the development of similar programs in her own country of Bangladesh.  Dr. Ganesh made such a remarkable impression on  Dr. Rahman that to this day she is almost in daily communication with her about different cases and patients. 

Now with her work at OSB, Dr. Rahman explains how they have made great improvements and they continue to strive to work on the prevention of blindness, but sadly not much is being done with children under the age of five.  Dr. Rahman told Megan that the hospital deals primarily with cataracts and has camps all over the country, even in the rural areas, but that the pediatric sector is not included in their work.  Children under the age of five do not often come to the doctor for any kind of problems unless there is something clearly and tragically wrong.  Recently, Retinoblastoma has been seen more frequently but is most often diagnosed when the child is around 3 years of age, the tumor is stage 3 or 4, typically beyond treatment, and enucleation is the only remaining option.  Dr. Rahman wants to see all of that change.  She tells Megan that her goal is to screen earlier so that she and her team can help prevent these horrible outcomes and avoid enucleation and unnecessary loss of life.  With Covid-19, it has been challenging as some of these earlier screenings have been paused. Fortunately, like many other countries, they have made use of the time providing webinars for training and while it is good to have these resources in place, she is eager for Covid-19 to pass so they can resume their search for glow-related conditions.  

Megan asked how those children who were diagnosed, though late, ultimately found their way to Dr. Rahman?  She told Megan that many times they are referred to her by a local ophthalmologist.  It is the parents who see something wrong but when they bring their child to the doctor they do not have photos to prove that something is off.  It is often only at the urging of these parents that their child is referred to her. It is frustrating to those parents that they sometimes go repeatedly to the local ophthalmologist only to be told it is nothing, a story she hears far too often. 

When Dr. Rahman learned about KnowTheGlow, she was moved by the awareness campaign and the empowerment it provides parents and family members allowing them to be proactive in their child’s care. With such a campaign, Dr. Rahman noted, we could find a mass group of people who are affected that we do not even know about. “Mothers can do a lot,” expressed Dr. Rahman.   She took her own daughters with her to Delhi to show them how much more women can now do to help other women.  There are many female doctors now, thanks to the groundbreaking work from the generation before her, which had to fight through many barriers to create an easier path for Dr. Rahman and her fellow female colleagues.  “Being a woman, having empathy, and working with patient families is so important,” Dr, Rahman told Megan.  Learning about Megan’s story and how it led to starting her journey with her own son and then starting KnowTheGlow was so inspiring to Dr. Rahman.  She recognizes in the work KnowTheGlow is doing the same opportunity to create an easier path for tomorrow’s mothers and doctors in finding more children in time.  In turn, KnowTheGlow is honored to highlight the dedication and compassion that the extraordinary Dr. Mahmooda Rahman gives to her young patients in and around Bangladesh.