(Denver, CO: July 2017). A Memorandum of Agreement has been signed to establish the first ever School of Optometry in Haiti. The School is a collaboration between l’Universite d’Etat d’Haiti (UEH), Brien Holden Vision Institute, Optometry Giving Sight, VOSH International and Charity Vision with support from University of Montreal. The signatories hope that the first students will commence their studies in October.
“This is a great moment in the development of eye health in Haiti,” said Dr. Jean Claude Cadet, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy at UEH, which is the lead local implementing partner for the project. “We are grateful to our international partners for helping us to realize our vision of establishing Optometry as a profession in Haiti in order to improve access to primary eye care for the millions of people in need.”
There are currently only 3 optometrists and 58 ophthalmologists (6 in the public sector) to serve Haiti’s population of 10 million people. These are predominantly located in the capital, making it difficult for the majority (70%) of people to access primary eye care services.
“This project will seek to graduate 16 optometrists per year, in what will be a 5-year Bachelor of Vision Science degree,” said Dr. Luigi Bilotto, Director Global Human Resource Development, Brien Holden Vision Institute, which is the lead international implementing partner for the project. “This means within 10 years, there will be 80 new locally educated eye care professionals who will be providing eye care to more than 360,000 Haitians per annum.”
The development of a locally trained workforce will have a huge impact on the well-being of people in Haiti, according to Dr. Ellen Weiss, President of VOSH International.
“VOSH chapters have been undertaking voluntary mission trips to Haiti for many years,” said Dr. Weiss. “We have seen tens of thousands of people and made a real difference in many people’s lives, but we think that the School of Optometry will help to provide a lasting solution and enable our teams to refocus their efforts on providing additional training and mentoring to the students once they graduate.”
That is a theme that is echoed by Clive Miller, CEO of Optometry Giving Sight, which has mobilized the financial support for the program.
“There is enormous goodwill towards Haiti from the North American Optometric profession and industry,” he said. “We have been inspired by the incredible support we have received from all our donors and sponsors, and especially Vision Source in the USA and Essilor in Canada. In addition to their financial support, there is a strong desire to contribute knowledge and skills to help ensure that the students have access to the best resources, and that future graduates have the support and skills they need to run successful clinics and practices.”
The Partners would also like to acknowledge the support of the National Council for the Prevention of Blindness (CNPC), the Port au Prince Chapter of Lions, and Digicel.
Funding is still needed for the School. For further information please contact Optometry Giving Sight – [email protected] / 303 526 0430 ends
UEH is one of Haiti’s most prestigious institutions of higher education. It is located in Port-au-Prince. Its origins date to the 1820s, when colleges of medicine and law were established. Dr. Jean Claude Cadet is the driving force behind the Optometry Program, will lead the recognition and government support for the course, promote the new profession, and advocate for its integration in the Haitian health structures. The higher education institution will provide the academic, operational and administrative framework.
Brien Holden Vision Institute headquartered in Sydney, Australia, is a unique global research, education, licensing and public health organization dedicated to providing affordable, quality vision for everyone, everywhere. Its focus is on innovation in refractive error correction, the most common problem. With the support of industry partners, the Institute researches and develops breakthrough technologies and products that improve vision. As a social enterprise, the revenues from these are reinvested in research and sustainable eye care programs. This operational framework enabled it to provide optometric services and glasses to over 3 million people at 429 vision centers and eye care sites and train almost 130,000 eye care personnel in 54 countries around the world. brienholdenvision.org
Optometry Giving Sight is the only global fundraising initiative that specifically targets the prevention of blindness and impaired vision due to uncorrected refractive error (URE) – simply the need for an eye examination and glasses. It was established in 2003 by the Brien Holden Vision Institute, World Council of Optometry, and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness as a means of mobilizing support from the global eye care profession and industry to help eliminate the backlog of people who are needlessly blind or vision impaired – currently estimated at more than 600 million worldwide. It is a registered charity in the USA, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Ireland, and Italy. In the UK we work in partnership with Vision Aid Overseas. giving sight.org
VOSH International facilitates the provision and the sustainability of vision care worldwide for people who can neither afford nor obtain such care. Our goal is to increase our global impact whenever possible by supporting sustainable eye clinics, optometry schools and optometric educators in areas lacking sufficient eye care. There are over 75 VOSH regional, state and school chapters worldwide. vosh.org
CharityVision is a US-based non-profit organization with a mission to empower local doctors and provide sustainable solutions in the fight against needless blindness. Since 1986, we have provided over 500,000 charitable surgeries to people suffering from needless blindness and built local networks of ophthalmologists and optometrists in over 25 countries. Our organization averages 70,000 new procedures and facilitates the construction of 5 new eye clinics each year. www.charityvision.net
Photo Caption: Dr. David McPhillips (VOSH), UEH Recteur Mr. Fritz Deshommes and UEH Dean of Medicine, Dr. Jean Claude Cadet signing the MOA on July 12th, 2017