Welcome to our SDG Editorial Board Members blog collection. We are hearing from the Editorial Board Members of the BMC Series journals whose work aligns with achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Here you can find other posts in this collection, grouped with the tag ‘SDG editorial board members‘.
Introduction and scope of work
I am an ophthalmologist working in the fields of medical retina and uveitis. For the past few years, I have combined clinical and research works which are focused on prevention of vision loss as well as restoration and improvement of vision. Therefore, I see myself working to achieve the SDG 3 ‘Good Health and Well-being’. As it is well known, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy are the main cause of blindness worldwide, especially in countries where diabetes mellitus is prevalent, such as Saudi Arabia.
The challenge with inherited retinal diseases
Another visual problem common in the Saudi society are inherited retinal diseases, mainly due to the high consanguinity among Saudis. My research work has been largely focused on inherited retinal diseases and aiming to add to the scientific knowledge about these diseases. The ability to characterize, discover and fully describe the inherited retinal diseases helps in counseling related family members about the risks of having further affected members and the consequences of consanguinity.
Inherited retinal diseases impose significant economic on the healthcare system and the individual levels. On the healthcare system level, the consequences of inherited retinal diseases include the costs of primary, secondary and tertiary ophthalmic care, serial examinations and diagnostic tests. On the individual level, barriers to high quality education and challenges related to employment reflect clearly on the economic status of affected people. These considerations make my work related to SDG 1 which is to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere”.
Some of the challenges I have encountered during my research include poor knowledge about inherited retinal diseases among Saudi population, limited access to genetic testing, competitive funding, and the need for a well-designated registry or database for inherited retinal diseases. The limited funding for genetic testing and research work, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, has affected considerably research work related to inherited retinal diseases.
The future is promising
Fortunately, I have been involved in a national retinal dystrophy registry at King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital (KKESH) which is going to facilitate the research work in this field. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia was one of the first countries outside North America and Europe to provide the first food and drug association (FDA) approved treatment for patients with inherited retinal diseases caused by mutations in the RPE65 gene which is Voretigene neparvovec-rzyl (Luxturna; Novartis). These successes would not have been made without the continuous support of the Saudi Government and ophthalmology leaders in the country.
In conclusion, I am proud to have played a role in the recent advances which have been made in ophthalmic health care in Saudi Arabia, through my clinical and research works. More efforts are needed to raise the awareness of the Saudi population about preventable diseases such as diabetic retinopathy and inherited retinal diseases. Simple and cost effective measures include lifestyle modifications and reduction of the rates of consanguinity will greatly help achieving related SDG goals (SDG 1 and SDG 3).