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Faculty & Staff Honors

Faculty & Staff Honors

UNC: Gower Honored in Abu Dhabi as REACH Award Finalist

The University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Dr. Emily Gower was honored at the biennial Recognizing Excellence Around Champions of Health (REACH) awards during the recent Reaching the Last Mile Forum in Abu Dhabi. She was named a finalist in the Game-changing Innovator category for her work on trichiasis treatments.

The REACH Awards are given by Reaching the Last Mile, a philanthropic global health initiative from Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, that aims to eradicate preventable diseases affecting vulnerable communities around the world.

Dr. Gower, an associate professor of epidemiology, was nominated for developing a low-cost simulator that can improve surgery outcomes for those with trichiasis, a condition where the eyelid scars and turns inward, causing the eyelashes to scratch the eye. It is the leading infectious cause of blindness across the globe, but the surgery used to correct it is most often performed by practitioners who have only basic medical training.

Dr. Gower’s simulator, called HEAD START, is a mannequin with removable eye cartridges that helps these surgeons practice the procedure before operating on live patients. It is the only innovation of its kind currently in use.

Before its development, surgical outcomes were often poor because trainees had no opportunity to practice before performing on live patients. According to Dr. Gower, things like an orange or a glove were most commonly used for training.

Since HEAD START has been integrated into practice, it has been used by community health practitioners across Africa and has substantially improved surgical training.

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