“Couldn’t have done it without them”

Dr. Vijitha Vempuluru, winner of the Victoria Cohen Scholarship 2022, will shortly return to Hyderabad, India, after completing her fellowship at the Wills Eye Hospital, Philadelphia, USA. Here she provides a review of her year learning from and working with Dr. Carol Shields:
I express my sincere gratitude to the Victoria Cohen Eye Cancer Charitable Trust for their generous support in funding my Ocular Oncology Fellowship with Dr. Carol Shields at the Wills Eye Hospital, Philadelphia, U.S.A. This one year has truly been a life-changing experience for me, allowing me to immensely improve my skills in the practice of ocular oncology.

From diagnosis of most common eye cancers to identifying subtle tumors to following up tumors over decades, this program is everything an aspiring ocular oncologist could ask for. Learning from Dr Carol Shields, a mentor par excellence and Dr Sara Lally, an amazing teacher, has been a truly fruitful journey accomplished through dedication, passion as well as endorsement from VCECCT. Finances are a crucial part of advanced educational programs especially when it mandates training abroad. With VCECCT providing for my fellowship, I was able to invest my time and focus in learning and academic growth. My knowledge of the diagnosis and management of eye cancers such as uveal melanoma, retinoblastoma, conjunctival, orbital and eyelid tumors has tremendously progressed and I have also had the opportunity to participate and present our work in conferences, multidisciplinary forums which have been great learning platforms (listed below).

Learning the technique of fine needle aspiration biopsy under indirect ophthalmoscopic visualization

Dr Ralph C. Eagle Jr. and Dr Tatyana Milman at the world renowned Wills Eye Ophthalmic Pathology Service have been so kind to teach, share their wisdom and engage me in research projects. I had the opportunity to work on interesting aspects of research in conjunctival melanoma, retinoblastoma, uveal melanoma as well as report several unique cases and presentations. I hope to take my learnings from this fellowship back to Hyderabad, India to facilitate early diagnosis and appropriate treatment of cancer in India and continue to make contributions to research, particularly retinoblastoma and ocular surface squamous neoplasia.

Conferences and CMEs attended
  1. American Academy of Ophthalmology Conference, Chicago, 2022
  2. Atlantic Coast Retina Club, Boston, 2023
  3. Wills Eye Conference, Philadelphia 2023
  4. Multidisciplinary Orbital Tumor Symposium, (virtual) 2023
  1. Holy Moly! Color change: clue or confounder?
  2. Holy Moly! Morning glory disc anomaly
  3. Atlantic Coast Retina Club Meeting: Dilemmas of disc and detachment
  4. Shields Oncology Rounds: Management of retinoblastoma
  5. Multidisciplinary Orbital Tumor Symposium: Advanced orbital malignancies
Case presentation at Atlantic Coast Retina Club, Boston, 2023
Examination under anesthesia on Wednesdays: every day an opportunity to see, learn and understand one of the most intriguing childhood cancers, ‘retinoblastoma’
Presentation of challenging cases of orbital tumors at Multidisciplinary Orbit Tumor Symposium with ocular oncologists, medical oncologist, neurosurgeons, otorhinolaryngologists and radiation oncologists sharing their pearls of wisdom on management 
  1. Marks V, Vempuluru VS, Shields CL. Necrotic Choroidal Melanoma Masquerading as Posterior Scleritis. Indian J Ophthalmol. In Press.
  2. Vempuluru VS, Lally SE, Milman T, Shields CL. Orbital metastasis from anorectal mucosal melanoma. Ophthalmic Plast Reconstr Surg. In Press.
  3. Woods M, Vempuluru VS, Shields CL. Incidentally Detected Giant Sellar Mass in an Infant with Delayed Milestones. Ophthalmology. 2023; Jun:S0161-6420(23)00353-6.
  4. Thomas GN, Vempuluru VS, Shields CL. Disappearing retinoblastoma. Can J Ophthalmol. In Press.
  5. Goldstein SJ, Zeiger J, Vempuluru VS, Shields CL. Anomalous Optic Nerve and Fluctuating Retinal Detachment in an Infant. What’s your diagnosis? J Pediatr Ophthalmol Strabismus. In Press.
  6. Vempuluru VS, Singla K, Milman T, et al. Bilateral Conjunctival Actinic Granuloma With Necrobiotic Vasculitic Pattern: A Diagnosis of Exclusion. Ophthalmic Plastic Reconstr Surg. 2023. Epub ahead of print.
  7. Vempuluru VS, Laiton A, Milman T, Lee JB, Eagle Jr. RC, Shields CL. Exogenous ochronosis with ocular involvement from chronic use of Teavigo®. Ophthalmic Plastic Reconstr Surg. Epub ahead of print.
  8. Barke MR, Vempuluru VS, Lally SE, Shields CL. Truxima (rituximab-abbs) for Adult Onset Asthma with Periocular Xanthogranuloma with Systemic IgG4-Related Disease. Ophthalmic Plastic Reconstr Surg. Epub ahead of print.
  9. Vempuluru VS, Shields CL. Conjunctival primary acquired melanosis, diffuse. In: Ramasubramanian, Shields CL, (eds). Clinical Cases in Ocular Oncology. Springer. In Press
  10. Vempuluru VS, Singla K, Milman T, Shields CL. Pigmented Peripunctal Mass in a Teenager. J Pediatr Ophthalmol Strabismus. 2023;60(1):5.
"Could not have done it without them!"
Dr. Vijitha Vempuluru with Dr. Carol Shields and Nicholas Rapley at ISOO 2022, Leiden, Netherlands.