London: The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, a charitable foundation established in 2012 to mark and celebrate The Queen’s sixty-year contribution to the Commonwealth, has honoured the work of Dr Subhadra Jalali, a pioneering ophthalmologist who is “leading the way in preventing premature babies from going blind across India and beyond”.
Dr Jalali, a highly qualified ophthalmologist who has worked at Hyderabad-based L V Prasad Eye Institute for many years, has played a pivotal role in the control of visual loss from retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).
Retinopathy of prematurity can cause total and irreversible blindness in premature babies as their retinal blood vessels have not had a chance to fully develop by birth. Over-exposure to oxygen in the incubator is highly toxic to blood vessels including those in the retina, and is a major cause of retinopathy of prematurity. Therefore, levels of oxygen administered must be carefully monitored.
Cases of retinopathy of prematurity are increasing in middle-income countries, where more premature babies are surviving because of improved access to neonatal care but where knowledge of the condition and its causes are lacking.
In 1998, Dr Jalali established a programme for detecting and treating sight-threatening retinopathy of prematurity in neonatal care units across Hyderabad and established a tertiary level centre of excellence for treating end-stage ROP, which requires highly complex surgery.
So far over 12,000 premature babies, referred to Dr Jalali from across India and beyond, have been treated under her care.
Dr Jalali has also trained over 350 ophthalmologists how to screen for and detect ROP again, from across India and internationally, and also teaches ophthalmologists how to operate on some of the most complex cases where surgery offers the only opportunity for sight.
The Trust is working with the Public Health Foundation of India and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, with the support of the Government of India, to increase awareness of this condition across India and support work to detect and treat ROP so that no more premature infants lose their sight needlessly.
According to the Trust, the work of Dr Jalali is instrumental in its programme to stop premature babies from going needlessly blind.