As a medical student at Johns Hopkins, Fasika Woreta conducted clinical research with Jennifer Thorne, now Wilmer’s division chief of ocular immunology, an experience that solidified her desire to pursue a career in ophthalmology. As a second-year resident, she worked with Sheila West on a research project focused on trachoma in Ethiopia. Collectively, those experiences laid the foundation for her future career in clinical research and epidemiology.
Today, as residency program director at the Wilmer Eye Institute, Woreta studies resident educational and surgical outcomes, always seeking to identify factors that influence them for good or ill. And as director of the Wilmer Eye Trauma Center — the only eye trauma center in the region — she examines trauma from an epidemiological perspective with the goal of preventing injuries. When trauma does occur, her research informs how to ensure the best outcomes for patients. As Woreta explains, residency education and eye trauma are interrelated. “Wilmer residents take care of more trauma patients than most other residency programs in the country,” she says.
Woreta’s research on issues of patient safety, quality and efficiency informs patient care as well as residency education. “Because we always want to have the best possible patient outcomes, even when our residents are training, we closely monitor our surgical outcomes, something that is important to teach residents to do throughout their careers.” For example, she has worked with mentor Oliver Schein on studies using data from Wilmer’s own trauma center and national databases to examine factors such as imaging trends, prescribing patterns and related costs in eye care delivery. “We look at how to provide high-value care using evidence-based medicine, with the hope of creating national guidelines,” Woreta says.
Woreta has also joined forces with national and international trauma experts to reestablish the American Society of Ocular Trauma. “We used to have a trauma registry in the U.S., but it was discontinued over 10 years ago. The registry is critical in monitoring etiology and outcomes following trauma,” she says. In January, Woreta became president of the newly established American Society of Ophthalmic Trauma.
In addition to her research and clinical work, Woreta — who was named Johns Hopkins Medicine’s 2019 Physician of the Year — trains the next generation of residents in surgical education, cataract surgery, and trauma and professionalism, which is getting increased attention as part of the residency training experience. And, of course, she spends a good deal of time mentoring the residents. She admits that the residency program takes a lot of time and effort, but says it’s well worth it. “When you train a resident to do cataract surgery well, or how to take care of a patient well, you’re really impacting every patient that resident may interact with in the future."