Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Haras Mhmud

Date of news: 3 April 2023


What's your name, nationality, current function, and department?
My name is Haras Mhmud, and I’m a British Belgian Pakistani immigrant living in the city of Rotterdam. I’m working as a clinical researcher (PhD candidate) at the Department of Ophthalmology at the RadboudUMC as part of the DCMN. In addition to my research duties here, I am a MSc Public Health for Eye Care student at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

What is the topic of your PhD project and how does your work look like in practice?
My research focuses on the development and clinical implementation of artificial intelligence algorithms within clinical and experimental ophthalmology. More specifically, I am currently working with an algorithm that analyzes retinal photographs and aims to predict likelihood of blindness in people with age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness in Western Europe and North America.
Due to the technical nature of this research, I collaborate intensively with others, such as computer scientists, data managers and medical image graders.

What has your career path been so far and how did you come to your current position?

After obtaining my medical degree at the University of Groningen, I worked at the St. Franciscus Hospital in Rotterdam as a clinical doctor for one year at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Thereafter, I applied for this PhD position due to my fascination with both the complex biology of the eye and the striking epidemiological contrast of eye disease between high income and low/middle income countries. I also truly believe that artificial intelligence has the power to revolutionize eye care by making it more affordable, efficient and accessible, particularly in low resource settings where achieving the optimal ophthalmologist-to-population ratio in the near future seems like a daunting task.
While working on my PhD, I realized that I lacked the practical knowledge and skills to be able to effectuate any substantive changes to the existing healthcare system. I therefore enrolled as a MSc Public Health in Eye Care student at the prestigious London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to garner the skillset needed to truly make a difference in eye care both domestically and globally.

What are your future plans?
My career goal is to amalgamate my knowledge and skills from clinical ophthalmology with public health research and artificial intelligence to shape affordable, sustainable and innovative solutions to improve clinical outcomes and increase efficiency in eye care. After concluding my PhD and MSc, I will embark on ophthalmic training as the subsequent steps to achieve these goals.

What does your perfect weekend look like?
There is no one type of perfect weekend for me. One particular weekend, it could be visiting my family and old friends in the city of London, while another weekend it could be staying within Rotterdam and exploring places to eat and drink with my friends here!

What is an important life lesson you have learned in the past?
Work hard, but play even harder. Academic and professional learning opportunities continuously come and go, but the world and people around us are in constant flux. As scientists or clinicians, it is easy to become obsessed with honing a particular skill or technique, but often times it is our soft skills that truly make a meaningful difference to the world and our patients. These soft skills develop far away from classrooms and lecture halls, in the real world when we visit faraway places and connect with people who look and speak differently to us.

What are you looking forward to in life?
Figuring out where life will take me. Life’s strange twists and turns has led many places around the world to be my “home”. And, whether my next home ends up being a diminutive suburb outside of Rotterdam or a bustling metropolis across the world, I do not yet know—and I will let life dictate that for me.

What is your favorite book and why?
Unfortunately, I’m not as prolific a reader as I’d like to be. It is my new year’s resolution to read more this year, which is going relatively well so far! So get back to me in about a year’s time!