The human eye attracts me the most

The human eye attracts me the most

Mukhit Kulmaganbetov, PhD candidate in Ophthalmology at Cardiff University, the School of Optometry and Vision Sciences. Mukhit has made it possible for the Kazakh Research Institute of Eye Diseases and Cardiff University to sign a memorandum of understanding. The purpose of the memorandum is to explore the area of ​​potential strategic partnerships in clinical, educational and research activities. The strategic document includes goals such as the development of joint research projects, conducting seminars, courses and conferences, the exchange of researchers and students, as well as the exchange of academic materials and publications.

Born to be a doctor

I was born in Karaganda, where my parents had been studying at the medical university at that time. Most members of my family are doctors and healthcare workers. Since it has been a tradition in our generation to follow the medical path, I did not see myself in other fields.

I’ve chosen the Asfendiyarov Kazakh National Medical University (KazNMU) as my Alma Mater because my conservative family did not want me to study abroad. I had to decline a study offer to university in Malaysia, which was fully funded by the International Bolashak Programme. I have never regretted studying in the KazNMU, not only the oldest medical university in the country, but also the only university in the Republic of Kazakhstan with the national status.

Currently I am a PhD candidate at the School of Optometry and Vision Sciences at Cardiff University. The topic of my doctoral thesis is the “Evaluation of potentials of optical coherence tomography in the early diagnosis of retinal neurodegeneration using AI technologies”.

Ophthalmology was not my first choice when choosing the university degree. Initially, I wanted to become a Neurosurgeon until four years later I realised that the human eye attracts me the most. Other reason that caused me to change specialty was that working as a Neurosurgeon was affecting my mental health. Witnessing several lethal cases in the hospital was a scarring experience for me. Meanwhile, I was invited to the Eye Institute to conduct research with the best ophthalmologists in the country. That was a life-changing moment for me. Everything turned out to be better than I expected.

Ophthalmology in Kazakhstan

Clinical ophthalmology in Kazakhstan is developed at similar level as in the United Kingdom. The technological development, surgeries and treatment strategies do not differ drastically between two countries. I must admit that some surgeons in Almaty are more competitive than my colleagues in Cardiff. However, in terms of the research potential, the UK has a virtue. The UK government spends generous amount of funds on research and innovation, whereas Kazakhstan lacks systematic strategies about the long-term development of the research potential. This is the main problem. Kazakhstan has the human resources to be able to compete with the industrialised countries on international arena.

Preventive measures

Firstly, I recommend to see an ophthalmologist once or twice a year, even if you do not have any complaints. Secondly, it is important to have a balance between office work and outdoor activities. Most of people nowadays work in offices or labs and spend a considerable amount of time in front of computer screens. It is advised to have a 5-min break every hour to do eye exercises (there is a plenty of them on YouTube).

Age matters

It is common for older people to start having age-related changes of the eye at the age of 40-50. This process is inevitable and irreversible. The good news is that there is a series of treatment options, including a surgery. We can also prevent or prolongate the onset of age-related eye pathologies by leading a healthy lifestyle, consuming a healthy food, supplements and vitamins. Nevertheless, prevention is better than curing the disease: visit an ophthalmologist to monitor your eye health and get a personalised prescription.

Glaucoma is a blindness

There are many differences between glaucoma and other eye diseases. Glaucoma is a dangerous disease due to its irreversible and progressive vision impairment nature. Moreover, it is a quite widespread condition and is in the top-3 diseases leading to blindness in terms of epidemiology.

Approximately more than 57 million people suffer from primary open-angle glaucoma, but this is one variation of this disease. There are many other types of glaucoma and most of them are concomitant with other eye or systemic diseases.

My contribution

Most of the PhD projects make a tiny or substantial contribution to the existing knowledge. In my case, we are working on the development and implementation of machine learning tools into ophthalmology. We have done a decent amount of work to show and prove that our algorithms have a promising future. I hope we will be the first ones to see how they can help people in future.

Future of ophthalmology

Current development shows that technology is progressively integrating into medicine. AI-based programs, nanorobots and genetic engineering are the next step in the development of ophthalmology.

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