The scholarships have been offered since 2015. VELUX FONDEN is aiming to make medical master students aware of their opportunities for pursuing research in ophthalmology. 

Since 2015, 10 medical students have received DKK 60,000-DKK 125,000 for scholarship projects. Scholarships are offered twice annually; in spring and autumn.

For Henrik Vorum, PhD, Clinical Professor, MD, Consultant at Aalborg University Hospital, creating a ‘stepping stone’ for the most junior medics is a logical move: “By apprenticing medical undergraduates as clinical investigators full-time for a year, they are given an opportunity to try out their aptitude for basic research.

Committing to this programme has the potential to generate relevant research results, but equally, it is likely to turn out highly motivated investigators, better research projects, and not least, a larger base for recruitment. This will give us healthy, increased competition for subsequent research projects so that we can continue to sustain the quality of ophthalmology in Denmark,” says Henrik Vorum.

New surgery for strabismus

Adeel Suhail Sethi is medical students who has been granted a VELUX FONDEN scholarship. His research project investigates two different surgical procedures for patients with sixth nerve palsy and Duane syndrome, where ‘miswiring’ of one eye muscle causes strabismus, or misalignment of the eyes, with one eye deviated outwards.
In 2015, the eye clinic at Rigshospitalet in Denmark was one of few hospitals worldwide to introduce a new type of surgery referred to as ‘Hunter's procedure’, which was developed at Boston Children's Hospital & Harvard Medical School. The object of this scholarship project is to assess the benefits and risks of this new surgical procedure as compared with a former procedure.

Adeel has been invited to present his research at the annual AAPOS-ISA conference on ophthalmology and strabismus in Washington, D.C. in March 2018.

Adeel Suhail Sethi, a medical student at the University of Copenhagen, was granted DKK 80,000 for his research project. He is currently in his 11th, penultimate, semester before qualifying.
In his very first semester he had heard about ophthalmology at an open day at Aarhus University, where a consultant physician had given a vibrant talk on this branch of medicine. Learning about the 10 cell layers of the retina inspired this fledgling medic to pursue ophthalmology more intensively, and he speaks passionately about his chosen field of medicine:
“My own eyes were left misaligned by jaw surgery, and I had corrective surgery for that when I was young, so this field has interested me personally for years, but it's almost a coincidence that I am now pursuing research in this field. I knew I wanted to be an ophthalmologist since years back, and also that I wanted to do research, so when I was scouting for research projects at the eye clinic at Rigshospitalet, consultant Jon Peiter Saunte introduced me to Hunter's procedure, which he had learned and introduced at the eye clinic back in 2015. In practice, the technique appears to be reliable, but we simply don't have the evidence-based data and statistics to be able to prove its safety and efficacy.”

What is strabismus?

Strabismus, misalignment of the eyes, may be congenital or acquired. The misalignment results in some degree of double vision, and its cosmetic and social consequences may be bullying in children and low self-esteem in adolescents and adults. Strabismus may also cause compensatory head-turning, which can result in neck strain injury, especially in adults. In addition, left untreated, strabismus in newborns may cause ‘lazy eye’, which results in substantially reduced vision in the affected eye.

There are thus many good reasons for developing reliable surgical techniques, as the eye clinic mentioned above performs as many as 700 strabismus procedures annually.

“I was doing a locum in the cataracts unit of Rigshospitalet's eye clinic, but when I was granted this unique opportunity to pursue research through VELUX FONDEN's scholarship programme, I chose to devote myself completely to research. Through my research project, I hope to inspire other medical students to do the same. I believe it is incredibly important to develop a dynamic and competitive research environment at Danish hospitals to ensure that our future clinical guidelines are based on research as opposed to subjective clinical experience.”

Questions about ophtalmology?

Frank Ulmer Jørgensen
Senior Adviser, Head of Programme, VELUX FONDEN
+ 45 29 41 81 35