Ventura Fellowship Experience:
Dr. Dhariana Acon

26 May 2020

Liana & Marcelo Ventura International Fellowship in Pediatric Retina Award

Report by Dhariana Acon (Costa Rica) First recipient of the Award
I spent a year at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, Fl, USA under the supervision of Dr Audina Berrocal. Here I did my pediatric retina- research fellowship. I worked directly with Dr Berrocal and the pediatric retina team; also with the retina fellows, medical students, residents, optometrists, and pediatric ophthalmology fellows working with her at different periods of time. There were different activities in the schedule including clinic days, operating room days (OR), retinopathy of prematurity rounds (ROP rounds), conferences, grand rounds, research and meetings. We had clinic and OR days twice a week. For clinic days always after the day finished we reviewed the most complex cases including the images, which I believe was very important to improve learning and the way of thinking through hard and challenging cases. Also to be able to be in the room with Dr Berrocal when she talked and explained to parents and patients about the disease and to see how she approached different situations was very helpful. In the OR examinations under general anesthesia were done to children to perform a good clinical exam and treatment when necessary. Fundus photos, fluorescein angiography, optical coherence tomography including OCT-A, ultrasound and every other study required to make the diagnosis and best decision regarding treatment were performed. Discussion of the cases with Dr Berrocal were done after each case. Also surgical cases were resolved during these OR days. One of the most exciting surgeries I had the opportunity to see was the gene therapy; and even more exciting was to be able to see the improvement in these kids during follow up at the clinic. Retinopathy of prematurity rounds were scheduled once a week. Premature babies were examined at the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Screening and treatment were given according to the case, the entire team including the photographer came to rounds and we discussed also the cases. Weekly there was a scheduled retina conference and grand rounds at the hospital. Also there were surgical retina conferences and other different conferences organized by the hospital. I participated in all of the activities. I worked in research daily. I was involved in the pediatric retina projects; and wrote and participated in the writing of many papers. Some are already published, and others are either submitted or accepted for publication. I continue to work in many others. I also attended retina meetings and I was able to present our work in research, as in the Advances in Pediatric Retina meeting which was in Utah in 2019. American Society of Retina Specialists, Mexican Retina Society meeting, Central – American Retina Society meeting and Bascom Palmer Eye Institute Curso are other of the meetings that I attended too. I fulfilled my aims and goals completely and I would absolutely recommend this fellowship to other retinal physicians interested in pediatric retina. Dr Berrocal is an extraordinary mentor, she cares about her fellow, her patients, her staff and she works very hard daily; I think there is no better way no teach than by giving the example and she certainly does. I learned so much from her and the entire team ,and I am grateful for the opportunity I had. I learned and enjoyed my year; I acquired knowledge and skills that I can use to work and help in my country. I am very thankful for the opportunity I had, to do my pediatric retina fellowship in an Institution as Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, and with a mentor as Dr Berrocal who is well known for being an excellent physician, one of the best in the pediatric retina field. This fellowship was an extraordinary and enrichment experience and I appreciate very much the support you gave me.