Denver, CO: The Malawi Optometry Association (MOA) held its first meeting on 28 November 2015 at Kamuzu Central Hospital. There were 20 Optometrists and 5 Optometric Technicians in attendance. The meeting was yet another significant milestone in the development of Optometry in Malawi – located in Southern Africa – which now boasts a School of Optometry with a 5-year Bachelor of Vision Science and a 3-year Diploma course at the Malawi College of Health Sciences.
In the past 3 years, more than 32 eye care professionals have graduated from these institutions and many are now either working in the public sector, or are training as local faculty.
“The establishment of a professional association for these new eye care professionals is the logical next step in their development, and that of Optometry as a profession in this country,” said Dr. Sara McGowan, a graduate of the University of Alabama who is the current Head of School at Mzuni University.
The meeting reflected on the competencies of Optometrists and Optometric Technicians in both public and private practice, and emphasized the need for the scope of practice to be based around patient needs and the importance of continuing education.
“Optometrists in Malawi have a very broad scope of practice,” said MOA President, Eric Ndaule. “One of the first actions of the MOA will be to develop an agreed scope of practice that can guide the review of the current degree and diploma courses so that they match patient needs.”
Mr. Ndaule noted that each of the four tertiary hospitals in Malawi now has an optometrist employed full-time and each of the five district hospitals is serviced by a local graduate. This is good news for a country with 17 million people – 53% of whom live below the poverty line and have never previously had access to eye care services.
The inaugural meeting of the MOA was supported by Optometry Giving Sight. The Schools of Optometry Program in Malawi was established in 2009 by the Brien Holden Vision Institute (lead project partner), Sightsavers, Optometry Giving Sight, Mzuni University (degree program) and the Malawi College of Health Sciences. Additional support is provided by Essilor.