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For more than 30 years, Dr. Allan Slomovic has shared his expertise with residents and fellows from around the world
In January 2020, Dr. Allan Slomovic and a team of six eye specialists from Canada arrived at La Anexión Hospital in Nicoya, Costa Rica, ready to work with local doctors. The week ahead would be intense. More than 80 people – some nearing 100 years old – needed care for corneal disease and cataracts, with some issues requiring corneal transplants and stem cell treatment.
In addition to performing the procedures, Dr. Slomovic would be doing morning teaching rounds each day, a boon for the hospital's residents. An ophthalmologist, Owen & Marta Boris Chair in Stem Cell Vision Research, research director of the Cornea/External Disease Service and director of the Ocular Stem Cell Transplantation Program at UHN's Donald K. Johnson Eye Institute, Dr. Slomovic is an internationally recognized leader in the field. Over the years, he has trained scores of residents and fellows from across the globe, including the U.S., Israel, Australia, Thailand and Saudi Arabia.
So perhaps it wasn't surprising that when the team arrived, a welcome banner hung above the door that displayed maps of Costa Rica and Canada.
"It's about building good will and good feelings with people from all around the world," says Dr. Slomovic of UHN's ongoing outreach initiatives.
But the global connectivity doesn't end when Dr. Slomovic heads back to Toronto. As an expert in corneal and external disease treatment, he and ophthalmologist Dr. David Rootman lead six fellows from countries from Brazil to Bahrain.
Dr. Nizar Din, who arrived at the Donald K. Johnson Eye Institute from London, U.K., in early summer 2020, says he was fortunate to land one of the coveted two-year fellowships, which many consider the most comprehensive in the world. Dr. Slomovic's impact also goes beyond medicine, Dr. Din adds.
"Dr. Slomovic has a very rare personality," he says. "He has a very genuine and caring heart. He wants you to do well. Not just as a supervisor, but as a human being."
This past year, Dr. Slomovic and fellow University of Toronto faculty members provided free eye exams and treatment at a weekend clinic for more than 100 Syrian refugees. His wife and daughter – who is currently in medical school – also helped out, taking histories and directing patients. People received much-needed care for cataracts, glaucoma and even an undiagnosed tumour.
Dr. Slomovic says he grew up in a family with a strong culture of charitable work, in gratitude for one's own success and good fortune.
"We are so blessed," he says. "It's really important to give back."