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ESASO aims to improve the clinical and surgical practice of specialists in ophthalmology in order to promote and enhance their professional skills. Its objective is to provide ophthalmologists with postgraduate education and hands-on training from an internationally renowned faculty.

The school promotes scientific research, organises meetings and seminars, and manages publications with the purpose of improving scientific knowledge within the ophthalmic community and thereby benefiting eye care and cures for patients. With campuses at the University of Lugano, Switzerland and the Medical Center in Singapore, one of the reasons so many students are enrolling for the ESASO courses is that they are receiving an academic education with an academic degree. The basic training system envisaged by the Bologna Process is currently offered by universities, but there is an almost complete lack of effective post university training across Europe. Programme courses at ESASO are taught by a distinguished international faculty and the medically oriented subjects are lectured by renowned practitioners invited for each specific domain.

ESASO offers three programmes, each leading to a separate certificate. Students who wish to attend only single modules receive a certificate of attendance. Students who complete all five modules receive the Diploma of Specialist Superior in Ophthalmology (DiSSO), which is equivalent to the Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS). Students who complete all the modules plus a one-year fellowship programme at one of a number of prestigious institutions receive the Master of Advanced Studies in Ophthalmology (MAS). Each module has the same structure.

ESASO conducts regular surveys after each module to guarantee quality and steadily improve the programmes. The modules consist of: a total of eight days of personal preparation and classes/labs assisted and coordinated by the respective faculty members. Students attending the school were predominantly from Western European countries, but now students from Eastern Europe, South America, Russia, the Middle East, and Asia are enrolling in the courses.

The upcoming Retina I module in Lugano will be attended by 41 students and the adjacent module Retina II by over 30 students.

Achieving fellowship So what do the students taking part in ESASO think of the programme? “One of the most enjoyable aspects of the ESASO course is the chance to meet eminent surgeons and teachers of ophthalmology,” said Maria Caterina Cascella. Dr Cascella has been working since 1990 at the Center of Excellence in Ophthalmology, Eye Unit, Putignano, Bari (Italy) and is responsible for diagnostic medical and surgical treatment of retinaldiseases.

“The campus at Lugano is very well organised, attended by students of all ages and of all nationalities, with the possibility ‘of interesting intercultural exchanges’. I also like the fact that the campus is located in a valley full of trees at the edge of a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains with a mild and sunny climate. I had the chance to take part in interesting classes of clinical and ophthalmic surgery (in particular of retinal disease, my main interest, along with glaucoma and corneal diseases), followed by internships and wetlab with some of the great teachers in world ophthalmology,” Dr Cascella said.

Giuseppe Guarnaccia is ESASO global executive director

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