International Fellowship Program

1. Objectives

1.1  To help promising young ophthalmologists from the Asia-Pacific region, in particular those from developing nations, to improve their clinical skills, surgical exposure, as well as their research experience, and to broaden their perspectives of ophthalmology.
1.2  Fellows are expected to bring their acquired knowledge and skills back to their native countries and participate in blindness prevention programs whenever appropriate.
1.3  The APAO International Fellowship Program (APAO IFP) adheres to the global initiative ‘Vision 2020’ in terms of spreading education and professionalism to all parts of the world and promoting international collaboration between institutions dedicated to eye care.

2. Secretariat Support

2.1  The APAO Central Secretariat will assist in the shortlisting of candidates to be recommended to the respective APAO International Training Centers for consideration in accordance with the selection criteria submitted by the training centers.
2.2  After the completion of the APAO IFP, both the Fellows and the Training Centers must report and provide feedback to the APAO Fellowship Standing Committee, through the APAO Central Secretariat, to ensure a continuous evaluation and review of each APAO IFP.
2.3  Fellows should continue to report to the APAO Fellowship Standing Committee, through the APAO Central Secretariat, upon return to their countries of origin for a long-term assessment of the fellowship achievements, which shall verify the usefulness and efficiency of the APAO IFP. The APAO Fellowship Standing Committee will decide on the interval and duration of reporting, depending on specific circumstances.

3. The Program

3.1  International Fellowship Programs provided by APAO International Training Centers are endorsed by the APAO Fellowship Standing Committee.
3.2  In general, up to 5 APAO International Fellowships are offered each year in:
    3.2.1  Ophthalmic subspecialties, such as pediatric ophthalmology and strabismus, medical and/or surgical retina, cataract surgery, cornea and external eye diseases, glaucoma, neuro-ophthalmology, ocular oncology, uveitis, orbital and oculoplastic surgery (up to 4 Fellowships in ophthalmic subspecialties per year);
     3.2.2  Ophthalmic research (clinical and laboratory) (up to 1 Fellowship in ophthalmic research per year).
3.3  The duration of attachment to any APAO-recognized ophthalmology training center would be either 3 months or 12 months.
3.4  12-month Fellowships should start in January of a calendar year, while the starting time for 3-month Fellowships should be agreed between APAO, the training center, and the Fellow.
3.5  A ‘Mentor’ should be assigned by the training centers for each Fellow. The Mentor should be a senior reputable ophthalmologist with vast experience in clinical / research training and education. The Mentor is responsible for supervising the Fellow during the period of clinical attachment.
3.6  Fellows should submit a clinical or research project proposal with their Fellowship application. This project is essential for 12-month Fellowships, and preferable for 3-month Fellowships. Selected projects will be published in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Ophthalmology, the official journal of the APAO, after peer review. To achieve this ambitious aim during the brief attachment period, Fellows are encouraged to communicate with their supervisors/mentors at the Training Centers well before the fellowship begins for suggestions of possible projects and the availability of funding, ethics approval, etc.
3.7  Upon completion of the APAO IFP, Fellows will be entitled to complimentary registration to the upcoming APAO Congress in which they will be presented with a certificate and the opportunity to speak about how they have applied the skills they acquired during the APAO IFP to benefit patients in their home countries in the APAO International Fellowship Program Symposium. Fellows may also present their completed clinical or research project in the above-mentioned Symposium.
3.8  Outstanding Fellows will also be invited to share their skills and knowledge transfer experience during the APAO Grand Rounds Around the World.

4. Eligibility

4.1  Candidates should be from one of the APAO member countries. Candidates must have completed basic residency training in ophthalmology and should be below 40 years of age.
4.2  Candidates should preferably have completed one of the subspecialty training programs available in their home country before commencing the APAO IFP, in order to maximize the chance of the candidates acquiring new techniques and knowledge for their countries.
4.3  Candidates should have at least one original scientific publication in an indexed peer-reviewed journal in the relevant subspecialty area of proposed training, either in print or in press, at the time of application.
4.4  They are encouraged to return to their native countries after the APAO IFP, and apply what they have learned to better serve the patients in their native countries.
4.5  Candidates should also note the special requirements of respective APAO International Training Centers.

5. Application and Selection

5.1  Candidates should send their application form and fellowship plan together with their CV, certificates, testimonials, reference letters and a published article to either the APAO Central Secretariat OR a member society of the APAO that they belong to. Applications submitted to the APAO Central Secretariat must be made online while applications to APAO’s member societies can made electronically via email. Each member society of the APAO can recommend to the Central Secretariat a maximum of 2 fellows per calendar year. Priority will be given to applicants recommended by APAO’s member societies.
Individual candidates please refrain from sending applications to both the APAO Central Secretariat and APAO’s member societies. Candidates with duplicate applications will be disqualified.
5.2  In their applications, candidates should express explicitly:
        5.2.1  The type of Fellowship they prefer: Subspecialty or Research (see 4.2 above);
       5.2.2  The specific areas of interest if they are planning a Subspecialty Fellowship or a Research Fellowship;
        5.2.3  Their choice of Training Center(s);
        5.2.4  The preferred duration of their Fellowships: 3 months or 12 months;
5.3  For candidates planning a clinical fellowship, they should:
       5.3.1 Take into account whether they are able to communicate in the native language when selecting a Training Center;
      5.3.2  Express specific target(s) for learning, which could be a specific eye disease, an investigation, or a technique / procedure.
     5.3.3  Specify the clinical or research project that they plan to undertake. This is an essential requirement for 12-month Fellowships.
5.4  For candidates planning a research fellowship, they should:
       5.4.1  Specify the research project that they plan to undertake;
       5.4.2  Take into account whether their proposed duration of attachment is long enough to complete the proposed study.
5.5  Please note that testimonials and letters of recommendation (previous supervisor, chairman of charity organization, etc.) must be on an official letter head, signed and stamped. If a candidate’s diplomas and certificates are in a language other than English, s/he must submit certified English translations. Please make sure to prepare a high-resolution scanned copy of all the forms, certificates, testimonials, etc. and save them as JPEF, GIF, TIFF or PDF files with a ‘telling’ name.
5.6  Applications are first screened by the APAO Central Secretariat for eligibility.
5.7  After evaluation by the APAO Central Secretariat, applicants who have fulfilled the minimum eligibility criteria for the APAO International Fellowship will then be assessed by the APAO International Fellowship Selection Committee, based on criteria including, but not limited to, the candidates’ qualifications, research and teaching activity, international work experience, charity work, the International Fellowship program’s relevance to the candidate’s home institution and country, and a balanced geographical representation. An evaluation form, which takes into account all of the above selection criteria, will be available to the International Fellowship Selection Committee for the evaluation, so that each applicant will have a score based on these criteria.
5.8  The APAO International Fellowship Selection Committee should include the following members:
    5.8.1  Chair, APAO Fellowship Standing Committee (Convener of the International Fellowship Selection Committee)
        5.8.2  Chair, APAO Ophthalmic Education Standing Committee
        5.8.3  Chair, APAO Prevention of Blindness Standing Committee
        5.8.4  Chair, APAO Research Standing Committee
        5.8.5  Chair, APAO Subspecialty Standing Committee
        5.8.6  Chair, APAO Women in Ophthalmology Standing Committee
        5.8.7  Chair, APAO Young Ophthalmologists Standing Committee
     5.8.8  Up to THREE other Council Members, to be selected by the Convener of the International Fellowship Selection Committee, with the aim of achieving good geographical representation within the Selection Committee.
5.9  Candidates will then be recommended to the APAO International Training Centers for final selection, starting from candidates with the highest scores. Once the annual quota (4 Clinical Fellowships and 1 Research Fellowship) for the International Fellowship Program is filled, remaining candidates with lower scores will not be referred to their preferred International Training Centers for consideration.
5.10  Applicants who are not selected in a particular year will not be automatically included amongst the Fellowship applications in the following year, though candidates are allowed to re-apply for the International Fellowship in a subsequent year.
5.11  Notifications of acceptance or denial are communicated to the candidates as soon as possible.
5.12  The decision is confidential, final and non-negotiable.
5.13  The APAO Central Secretariat accepts no responsibility for incompleteness, non-receipt or delays in receipt caused by transmission or reception problems, equipment failure, or any similar cause. Only complete applications will be processed.

6. Financial Support

6.1  Round-trip economy airfare support of up to US$1000 will be provided by the APAO to each International Fellow. In addition, each International Fellow will be provided with a modest allowance of US$200 per month during their period of training. The allowances provided by APAO are subject to review on a yearly basis.
6.2  The number of APAO International Fellows per year will be reviewed annually, taking into consideration the number of training centers, the demand for International Fellowships, and the availability of funding.
6.3  Additional living expenses as well as insurance coverage (health, accident, legal liability, etc.) will not be covered by the APAO. There should be a clear agreement between the APAO International Training Center, the APAO International Fellow, and the Fellow’s employer / institution, as to how such expenses will be covered BEFORE the fellowship begins.
6.4  Member societies are also encouraged to offer some financial support to Fellows coming from their nations.