I was invited at the Ocular Regenerative Medicine Institute / Mass Eye and Ear, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School (Department of Ophthalmology) in Boston, Massachusetts as a Visiting Associate Professor for 3 months under the Fulbright Visiting Scholar Program. It has been a great experience both from a scientific and cultural view as well as from a human perspective mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During my three month-period, I successfully completed my research program Understanding systemic lipids in the pathogenesis of Age-related Macular Degeneration: an omics approach, which focused on the role of the metabolomic changes, and especially the role of lipids in the pathophysiology of Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD).
My Fulbright grant period was much affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a clinical pathologist / biopathologist, I have seen a fusillade of infectious diseases in hospitals, labs and travels: brucellosis, malaria, hepatitis A, typhoid, AIDS, etc. But now it was a new feeling. Three out of 12 physicians and scientists of our institution contracted COVID-19. To my amazement, one of them, the youngest and the most optimistic, who underestimated the risk of infection, ended up hospitalized and treated next to the ICU department for two weeks. I did everything I could to avoid becoming infected as one does not know the individual outcomes. I tried to assist students and neighbors who contacted me for medical advice.
Overall and despite the difficulties and the frustration I faced, my Fulbright grant period was one of the best and life changing experience. Beyond any accomplishment, the whole experience forced me to think about what and who is essential in life.
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