Confessions of an Expat

My other life…

MoulterDr. Bob Molter is currently living in Vietnam with his wife and lecturing at the School of Optometry at Pham Ngoc Thac University (PNTU) in Ho Chi Minh City as part of a program which is supported by Brien Holden Vision Institute, Optometry Giving Sight and VOSH International. He was formerly Adjunct Clinical Professor at the Michigan College of Optometry but this is his first experience in lecturing. The Optometry School at PNTU commenced in 2014, and currently has 94 students – the first of whom will graduate in 2018.

When I was a student I decided to go into Optometry because it promised a good salary, but when I was at school I learned to love the field of Optometry and this profession as an avenue for serving others. My joy is now at this later stage in my life I am getting to fulfil that early realisation.

By far, my favourite part of teaching is the interaction that I have with the students during lectures and labs. I try to keep the students engaged by including interactive portions in the lectures and calling on them in turn to give answers or describe something about the topic.

The song from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I, “Getting to Know You” would be a pretty close approximation of how I feel about my experience with the wonderful students here. Especially the lyric “that if you become a teacher, by your students you’ll be taught.” Watching the student’s progress in their skill and confidence is incredibly satisfying for me. I am very happy to have a small part in this process and am inspired to consider being involved with lecturing at emerging faculties in the long term.


Part of that inspiration comes from my interaction with a specific student and his father. The father is the head of the Corneal Department at the Eye Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. We’ve been to dinner with him and his wife several times and he has expressed his confidence that Optometry has a place in the healthcare system here. He is so confident that he has enrolled his only son in the program. His son is one of our top students in the second-year class and I can tell he will be one of the leaders of Optometry in Vietnam in the future. It’s been fantastic and eye opening to see the support on this grass-roots level for the profession.

If you would like information about volunteering your services at a School of Optometry internationally, please visit the VOSH Corps website.

 School of Optometry

Mr. Tran Hoai Long, Head of Optometry Sub-department, Dr. Nguyen Thanh Hiệp, Vice Dean of UPNT, Bob, Kim, Ms. Ngân Tran – Optometrist – Teaching Assistant, Ms. Yen Phuong – Opthalmologist – Teaching staff. Feb 25,2017.


Making Optometry Part of Haiti’s Future

GirlHaitiMaking Optometry part of Haiti’s future.

(See download Proposal and Naming opportunities below)

Optometry Giving Sight is part of a coalition of organizations including the Brien Holden Vision Institute and VOSH International who are seeking to contribute to the reconstruction of Haiti through the establishment of a School of Optometry at the Université d’État d’Haïti (Haiti University).

Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas. There are only 3 optometrists and 6 ophthalmologists in the public sector servicing a country of 10 million. This makes access to eye health services difficult for over 70% of Haiti’s population and significantly reduces their ability to break the cycle of poverty through better education and employment.



HaitiConstructionHaiti hospital construction

“A trained workforce is the crucial link between the services and processes required to address the problem,” said Dr. Dave McPhillips, President, VOSH International. “A successful and strategic intervention in Haiti will make a significant contribution to reducing avoidable blindness and vision impairment for the millions in need.”

The School of Optometry will join the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy and be located within the new National Campus for Health Sciences that is currently being constructed with funds provided by USAID. “While Haiti is still in the process of rebuilding, we are ready to move forward in the areas of health and eye care,” said Dr. Jean-Claude Cadet, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy at Haiti University. “This is a great moment to be involved in the reconstruction of our country.”

At a very conservative estimate, the school will produce 16 students per year. These students will be able to reach a minimum 24,000 patients in their first professional year. With at least 16 graduates each year following, the new optometrists will be able to reach 360,000 patients after the 5th graduation cycle – about 80 times the current case load.

Clive and the Haiti Team

Cliveteam“We know that, from a cost-benefit perspective, setting up an optometry program in a developing country is economically justifiable in terms of increased productivity,” said Dr. Luigi Bilotto, Director of Global Human Resource Development, Brien Holden Vision Institute. “Now we need the help of the vision care community to start to build sustainable eye care within Haiti.”

Our goal is to welcome the first students into the new optometry program in October 2016. Work towards the development of a suitable curriculum for the new degree has already commenced, and Optometry is now included in the National Health Plan of Haiti.

“The Coalition, with support of Essilor Canada, has pledged $1million, but to move forward, we need an additional $3 million,” said Clive Miller, CEO Optometry Giving Sight. “With each significant financial contribution comes special recognition in naming opportunities, which reflects the impact of a gift and our gratitude for our donor partners.”

For further information, please contact us.

Download Haiti Programme Brochure

New Optical Lab in Peru

perulab8,000 new eye glasses for poor patients

Optometry Giving Sight’s continued partnership with Vision for the Poor has recently made possible the equipping of a new optical lab and service at the Divino Niño Jesus (DNJ) Eye Hospital in Lima, Peru. Over the coming year the optical lab is expected to provide 8,000 new eye glasses to poor patients living in Lima and the Amazon rainforest region.

“DNJ is a social service eye hospital that provides access to eye and vision care services for the poorest people of Lima,” said Dr. Doug Villella, founder of Vision for the Poor. “Demand for DNJ services has steadily increased and a need for more clinic space and an optical service was needed. In 2014 Vision for the Poor funded the addition of 1800 square feet of clinical space and the grant from Optometry Giving Sight funded the optical service which is located in the new space. The optical lab will also provide new eye glasses to DNJ patients treated at their satellite facility in the Amazon basin town of Loreto.” Loreto is Peru’s northernmost region with 70% of its inhabitants living in poverty.


Vision for the Poor began working with DNJ in 2013 with the goal to help increase patient capacity from 35,000 patients per year to 60,000. This would be achieved by focusing on three pillars to achieve sustainability: high efficiency, high volume and high quality.

“The optical lab will provide high quality optical eye wear to a high volume of patients in a very efficient way,” said Dr. Villella. “Based on our experience in other facilities patient satisfaction results in higher number of patient referrals. The increased capacity provides for a higher ratio of paying to non-paying patients, which adds revenue and ultimately a profitable service.”

JOseDNJ“I don’t like to have low vision, I can’t study, help my mother, I can’t play with my sister, even play with my cat,” related Jose.  “With my glasses nothing of this happens and I feel better and happy”. One of the many children recently given the gift of vision through our partnership with Vision for the Poor is Jose Adolfo (pictured right). He started having problems seeing at school and at home since he was 7 years old. At school his teachers never noticed the eye problems. It was two years later at 9 years of age that his teacher realised something was wrong with Jose’s vision. His mother Jessica was counseled to take Jose to the DNJ Eye Clinic. Dr. Cecilia Medina examined him and she prescribed glasses for high astigmatism. Once he was given the glasses, Jose start to see well.

Volunteer Eye Health Mentors

Providing support and guidance to optometrists in emerging communities 

Optometry Giving Sight is pleased to have provided funding to support the development of a unique online training program for volunteer optometrists to become eye health mentors.

As part of the course, which is developed and implemented by the Brien Holden Vision Institute, participants learn about effective models of mentoring new optometrists in emerging contexts and the type of challenges present in those environments.

The new optometrists gain support and guidance in practice, are able to develop their clinical, dispensing and patient management skills, and with their newfound confidence, help develop a strong and sustainable eye care system in their countries.

A group of 12 participants successfully completed the Eye Health Mentors online course in April and were then invited to apply for volunteer roles as mentors to graduates from schools of optometry in Kenya and Malawi.

ErinAndChikodTwo of the successful participants included Dr. Erin Loewen (pictured right), an optometrist from Winnipeg in Canada and Chikodi (left) an optometrist from Lagos in Nigeria. They travelled to Kenya together on a fully self-funded two-week volunteer trip to Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST).

Much of their time was spent at the local Academic Vision Centre supervising the graduates. This was followed by informal discussions about cases with the group while providing valuable feedback and identifying any deficiencies in their skills and knowledge. They also did demonstrations of various clinical techniques, including binocular vision testing and contact lenses.

“I found the volunteer visits very useful for the growth of Optometry practice in emerging schools, not only in Africa but in other developing countries,” said Dr. Okenwa, head of the Optometry Department at the university.


The course was also very well received by the mentees. “It was two weeks of my time and it was worth it,” said Collins. “There were things I could not appreciate during my studies, but through these practical sessions we had with the mentors, I am more comfortable with ‘difficult’ procedures. Also, procedures I deemed ‘irrelevant’. I now believe that’s what makes me an optometrist and not just a refractionist. A mind once stretched by a new experience can never go back to its original dimension.”

KateandFanizoDr. Kate MacNeill from Canada (pictured above with optometry graduate Fanizo) undertook her volunteer mentor assignment in November. She visited the vision centre in Mchinji, Malawi. Kate spent two weeks mentoring Fanizo from Mzuzu University, Malawi. She spent a lot of one-on-one time with Fanizo supervising him and assisting with his clinical skills.

Kate also provided mentoring on the general vision centre and patient management, encouraging him to keep patient records and suggesting ways of improving the vision centre set-up to improve efficiency. Kate‘s experience was extremely rewarding despite the contextual challenges of being based in a rural city of Malawi. She will be staying in touch with Fanizo through the online platform developed by the Institute so that she can continue providing mentoring support from a distance.

If you are interested in future volunteer opportunities with the Brien Holden Vision Institute please visit here.

Please note that placements are self-funded by the volunteer unless otherwise specified.


Malawi – A Shining Star

A new and sustainable legacy emerges in Malawi

laston malawi clinic

Laston (pictured above) is 5 years old and has been blind since birth due to congenital bilateral cataracts. In July this year the cataracts were removed, and he received some surgical implants to help restore his vision. He is still learning to see, as is evident by the way his eyes struggle to focus during the eye exam being conducted by local optometrist, Fanizo Kabwazi. Like so many others, Laston’s prognosis would have been much better if he had had access to treatment earlier. But today he is prescribed a pair of bifocals (+1.00 OU with a +2.00 ADD in polycarbonate Transitions lenses). By giving him glasses and vision correction now, it is hoped that his vision will improve over time.

Laston’s optometrist was one of the first to graduate from Malawi’s only School of Optometry, established in 2009 at Mzuzu University with support from Optometry Giving Sight, lead project partner Brien Holden Vision Institute and Sightsavers. He is currently working at Mchinji Clinic, which has been established as part of a public / private partnership with Essilor. On this day, Dr. Howard Purcell from Essilor of America was visiting the clinic and was able to see first hand the conditions faced by the young optometrist.

Dr. Purcell (pictured on the left) was impressed by the commitment and dedication of Fanizo (right), and the very broad scope of practice that he undertook in his clinic. Like so many of his colleagues in Malawi, Fanizo is expected to be able to deal with everything except for surgery, and to be able to respond to the many challenges that come from working in a developing country. These include access to consumables, an erratic electricity supply, lack of air conditioning, equipment maintenance, and even obtaining office furniture.

However, despite such challenges, it is clear that a new and sustainable legacy is emerging in Malawi, which is changing what previously was a world of fragmented training and service delivery in eye care.

There are now 14 qualified optometrists working in the public sector. Each of the four tertiary hospitals has an optometrist employed full-time and each of the five district hospitals is serviced by a graduate optometrist from the School of Optometry at Mzuzu University. This is good news for a country with 8 million people – 53% of whom live below the poverty line.

The optometrists are supported by 18 optometric technicians, who are recent graduates of the Malawi College of Health Sciences in the capital Lilongwe. 16 of these technicians have placements either in the tertiary or district hospitals and the remaining two technicians have returned to the College as junior faculty.

It is hard not to be moved and impressed by the efforts of the staff, the graduates who are now providing much needed vision care services to people who have not had them previously, and the current students who are so excited to have the opportunity to help build and shape Optometry as a profession in their country.

In the words of Hilda Kazembe, Country Manager for the Brien Holden Vision Institute: “This project is working. It’s still small but patients are being seen.”

Optometry Giving Sight would like to thank all of its donors and sponsors who have enabled us to provide funding support to this high impact project over the past 8 years. We look forward to providing ongoing support to the students, vision centers and the development of local faculty in both the School and College of Optometry.

North American Eye Care Companies and Networks

world sight day challengeMembers of the North American eye care community will once again join forces in a Coalition to support Optometry Giving Sight and its annual fundraising campaign, the World Sight Day Challenge held throughout September and October.

This year’s Coalition members include ABB OPTICAL®CooperVisionEssilor, Eyefinity, FYidoctorsMarchon EyewearVision Source®VSP Global® and ZeaVision.

They will be joined by A&A Optical, Acuity Pro Software, Advance Optical, Allergan, Art Optical, Bard Optical, ClearVision Optical, Contamac, DAC Vision, Demandforce, Essilor Canada, Europa, Eye Pros, Eye Recommend, Gateway Professional Network, GPLI, Heidelburg Engineering, Hilco, Hi-Tech Products, IBM Global Delivery Systems, Jobson Medical Information, Konan Medical, Kosh Ophthalmics, Match, Menicon, Modern Optical, MODO, Nikon, Oasis Medical, Ocuco, Optos, Optovue, OSI, PFO Global, POG Labs, REM Eyewear, RX Optical, Reptile Sun, Ron’s Optical, Signet Armorlite, Slack Incorporated, SynergEyes, Tech Group, Tura, Vision Ease, Vision One Credit Union, Vmax Vision, Wave Contact Lens System, Westgroupe, Zeiss (USA & Canada) and Zyloware, all of whom are participating in the Challenge in some way.

Numerous events are planned to raise awareness of the importance of eye health and to provide eye care and eyewear to people in need.

world sight day challengeVSP Global is partnering with VOSH, coalition partners and Louisiana doctors to host a special VSP Mobile Eyes® outreach event to increase access to eye care for those in need and help raise awareness about the importance of eye care. Held in New Orleans, up to 300 patients will receive no-cost eye exams and glasses through the VSP Mobile Eyes clinic, outfitted with state-of-the-art exam rooms and a full dispensary.

CooperVision, a Gold Global Sponsor, is conducting its “Fight for Sight” campaign, in which employees are encouraged to participate in fundraising activities organized at their local CooperVision sites. Employee donations will be matched by The Cooper Companies, CooperVision’s parent company.

Vision Source® is encouraging Member Support Center colleagues, Administrators and Members to take the Challenge with a goal of raising $1million, with part of the proceeds to benefit the establishment of a School of Optometry in Haiti.

FYidoctors involves all of its clinics across Canada with 100% participation throughout October with local and corporate fundraising initiatives. Their “$1 dollar for every like” campaign begins October 1st on Facebook and has received huge success in previous years. FYidoctors matches every dollar raised by their doctors and on their social media channels.

Alcon affiliates around the world are hosting events to serve eye health on three fronts: education, research, and vision screenings. In the United States, Alcon is supporting one-day clinics providing free eye exams to under- and uninsured patients in New Orleans and elementary school and community college students in Fort Worth, Texas. They are also hosting a Cycle for Sight on their Fort Worth campus to raise funds and awareness.

ABB OPTICAL GROUP will once again offer all of its customers the opportunity to donate to Optometry Giving Sight through the ABB OPTICAL ordering websites.  For every five dollars donated, the customer will receive a World Sight Day People Power bracelet shipped with their contact lens order and ABB OPTICAL GROUP will match that donation 100%. will be conducting “Share for Sight,” a social media campaign to promote Optometry Giving Sight and eye health education, during the week of World Sight Day.

ZeaVision will support WSDC fundraising efforts through multiple activities in September and October including employee initiatives, product promotions, and participation in the VSP Mobile Eyes Outreach Event in New Orleans. They will also make a donation on behalf of the Arizona Fall League’s 2015 batting champion during the award presentation.

Essilor is organizing events in some fifty countries around the world to raise public awareness and endorse the message to “Raise the Flag for Better Vision” and promote visual health.  In the United States, the Essilor Vision Foundation will be conducting vision clinics across the country and will offer opportunities for Essilor employees to get involved and volunteer on World Sight Day.

“The World Sight Day Challenge is now a major event within the global optometric community and it’s a great way to engage with staff, customers and colleagues to help provide Eye Care for All,” said Clive Miller, CEO of Optometry Giving Sight. “We are grateful for the support that we receive and encourage all eye and vision care companies, networks and practices to take the Challenge and make a donation so that we can help end avoidable blindness and give sight and hope to the millions of people in need.”

The Passing of Brien Holden – A Tribute

Brien Holden A tribute

I am writing this as I’m flying from Madrid to San Francisco,  after having heard over-night about the sudden and unexpected death of my dear friend, Professor Brien Holden.

I was awoken by multiple e-mails and text messages from Australia, and from around the world, informing me of such sad news. I was shocked. I was sad. I could not believe it. I cried.

I saw Brien recently in Liverpool during the BCLA, and as I normally did, shared a beer or two, as we discussed how to resolve the problems not only of our industry and profession, but also of the world. Although we were at the extreme opposites of the political spectrum, I always enjoyed my conversations with him.

I met Brien back in 1985, while I was employed at Bausch & Lomb. He and B&L had several joint projects, covering R&D and educational initiatives, but the relationship was a tense and difficult one, which to a large extent defined Brien’s relationship with industry, in general, throughout his career. I got to know Brien very well through activities of IACLE (International Association of Contact Lens Educators), APCLEP (Asia Pacific Contact Lens Educational Program) and his involvement as a speaker and session moderator at the ERS (European Research Symposium), sponsored by B&L. I also got to know him quite well as B&L’s guest during the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, where his deep pride and love for Australia truly manifested itself. Over my 30 years within the contact lens industry, working in addition to B&L, with CIBA Vision, Ocular Sciences and CooperVision, Brien was always a constant. People would come and go; Brien was always there. His presence grew, as did his contributions.

Brien was brilliant, a true visionary, a fantastic thinker and charismatic communicator. Initially his reputation came from his work with contact lens research and education. Although many groups were involved, to a significant extent, we owe to Brien, and his group, the availability of silicone hydrogel materials, which today make-up over 50% of the world’s US$8 billion contact lens market (at wholesale). Through his educational efforts, through work at IACLE, APCLEP, ICLEP and other initiatives, contact lenses expanded globally beyond Europe and North America, and are now used by over 150 million people worldwide. Brien was truly a contact lens pioneer. Today, the Brien Holden Vision Institute (BHVI) is unsurpassed in their accomplishments in eye research, public health and education, benefiting millions of people worldwide.

This is part of Brien’s legacy.

But Brien was more than contact lenses; he loved optometry, and saw in this profession, in his profession, as the ideal and most efficient and affordable way to provide primary eye-care to millions of people globally.  Brien was a humanitarian; he believed in the greater-good, and in our collective responsibility to do what was right.

His work in developing long-term sustainable eye-care programs aimed at reducing the prevalence of vision impairment due to uncorrected refractive errors led to the establishment, in 2003, of Optometry Giving Sight (OGS), as the only global fundraising organization aimed at mitigating this problem, which  affects over 600 million worldwide . He founded OGS and for the first time, through his efforts, uncorrected refractive errors were recognized by the World Health Organization as a major cause of visual disability. He convinced organizations such as the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) and the World Council of Optometry (WCO) to join with BHVI in establishing OGS.

Brien chaired OGS’ Global Board of Directors for 10 years, until he invited me to replace him when he stepped down in 2013. This has been a true honor and privilege to continue with Brien’s dream to provide vision to people everywhere, to continue with his legacy. On a timely manner, OGS bestowed on Brien our first Humanitarian Award in October of 2014.

Brien was a complex individual, and like all of us, was not perfect. He was so intense that not many people could keep up with him indefinitely. He was passionate; he lived life to its fullest. Always working; always thinking. He loved his family; he loved his friends. He loved to dance, and I must say, for a non-Latin, had good rhythm.

He died doing what he loved. Brien never would have retired.

Brien was my dear friend. I was very proud of this friendship. I learned so much from him. He was always there for me. He travelled half away around the world to join me at my wedding a couple of years ago. He made me a better person. He saved my son’s life. I loved Brien and will miss him. The industry and the profession of optometry have lost a giant.

I have lost a friend; an unreplaceable friend, whom I will miss forever.

As I wrap-up my thoughts, I should end by saying, Brien, rest-in-peace.

However, Brien will never rest. I am sure he’s already talking to God, to his God, proposing some kind a project that would benefit people on Earth.

Knowing Brien, he will convince God.

See you later Brien; take care my friend.

Dr. Juan Carlos Aragón
Chairman, Global Board of Directors
Optometry Giving Sight

India – A Future Leader in Global Eye Care

India Montage131 million people in India, including 11 million children, are blind or vision impaired from being uncorrected or under-corrected. Most are in rural areas.

Optometry Giving Sight, in association with founding partner the World Council of Optometry, is pleased to be a significant contributor to a program designed to make India a leader in eye health within the next 20 years. The Development of Optometry, Blindness Prevention and Vision Care in India program is implemented by the India Vision Institute (IVI), which was established by the Brien Holden Vision Institute and LV Prasad Eye Institute.

The building of local capacity is a major objective of the program, and over the past 36 months, IVI has conducted 58 capacity building workshops and 30 seminars; offered 466 registration scholarships, 15 student research grants, 17 travel grants and 2 higher education scholarships benefiting over 4300 optometry professionals.

They have also partnered with the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry to organize an Optometry Professional Development Workshop; and a workshop on Refraction Techniques & Clinical Implications was organized in partnership with the Indian Optometry Federation.

“The Indian Optometric profession in India is at a very important and exciting stage,” said Vinod Daniel, CEO with IVI. “The support provided by Optometry Giving Sight through its donors and sponsors is assisting the country in both building the necessary short term technical capacity in Optometry as well as the long term structural setup. Over the next two decades, India will become a global leader in eye care”.

Another key objective of the program has been the establishment of the Optometry Council of India. OCI is a professional self-regulatory body responsible for establishing and maintaining high standards of optometry education and recognition of optometry qualifications in India. To date, more than 500 optometrists have registered, including optometrists from Essilor India and Lawrence & Mayo. The registration is for a period of 3 years following which the optometrist has to renew the registration.

“Optometry as a profession in India is undergoing a sea change and history is being made with regards to affordable eye care, “ said Lakshmi Shinde, CEO of OCI. “The profession is getting more organized in terms of merging the different levels of optometry and self-regulating itself through an independent council. This, in concert with other important initiatives, will go a long way in providing quality eye care service to the public in India”.

IVI also has its eyes firmly on the future with the establishment of the Young Leaders Program, which was launched with a two-day workshop in Hyderabad on 12-13 April. The second workshop was held at Chennai on 11-12 October 2014. A group of 10 young optometry professionals is being groomed under this program to develop as future leaders of Indian optometry. The program includes practical demonstrations and theoretical sessions conducted by renowned Indian and international experts in the area of optometry, eye care and public health management.

Canada World Sight Day Challenge 2014

canada world sight day challengeThe World Sight Day Challenge is Optometry Giving Sight’s main fundraising campaign of the year to help eliminate avoidable blindness and impaired vision in underserved areas of the world. We are pleased to report that a record number of optometry practices, companies and students participated in the Challenge in Canada this October.

Donations are currently pouring in, and the final results will be reported early in the New Year. We would like to extend our sincere thanks to everyone who participated or donated. You are giving sight and hope to many people in need! You are also helping us inch closer to our global goal of raising $1 million.

Company Challenge: The Company Challenge in Canada saw 8 companies pledging support through employee donations and/or fundraising activities this year. Our thanks to WestGroupe, Essilor, Hoya Vision Care, Carl Zeiss Vision, FYidoctors, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, CooperVision and Younger Optiks for their participation – to the many other companies that made their annual donation.

Student Challenge: Preliminary results are in for some of the participants in the Student Challenge, which was an overwhelming success this year for the University of Waterloo and the University of Montreal optometry students who raised a record $7,258.66 and $10,005.91 respectively! Both schools held a ‘Dining in the Dark’ fundraising event with silent auctions for donated items including laser eye surgery gift certificates generously donated by Lasik MD and TLC Laser Eye Centres. Optical technician students at Cégep Garneau and the University of Calgary Pre-Optometry Club also participated this year.

Classic Challenge (Optometry Practices): Many wonderful amounts are being remitted from optometry practices across Canada. We are starting to hear of some of the many creative fundraising events that took place in FYidoctors, OSI, Eye Recommend, Vision Source and independent optometry offices throughout October. Here are just a few of them:

  • Staff members of Waterfront Eyecare in Penticton BC held a flashmob at their local farmer’s market to raise awareness and invite donations.
  • Killarney Vision Services in Killarney MB held their second annual ‘Dining in the Dark’ event, with staff members volunteering as servers for the meal to blindfolded participants.
  • Victoria Vision Eyecare in Victoria BC held a variation of an icebucket challenge where patients could make a donation to vote for whether Dr. Hildebrand, Dr. Webster, or Michael (business manager) at the office would get an icebucket dumped on their head.
  • Family Eyecare Centre in New Westminster BC held a ‘mobile’ bakesale, taking a wagon full of home-baked goodies around to all the businesses in the mall they reside in.
  • Optical Image in Swift Current SK held a variety of events, with the added incentive that if $5000 was raised, Optician Trent Tallon would shave his head, and if $10,000 was raised, Dr. Sasha Godenir would shave her head.

Our sincere thanks again to everyone who participated in the Challenge. If you haven’t yet made a donation, please add your support today and help us reach our goal. All donations are tax deductible.

canada world sight day challenge

Pioneering Optometry in Vietnam

Pioneering Optometry in VietnamFunding from Optometry Giving Sight and the AusAID East Asia Vision Program has provided for the successful completion of the first stage of an optometry education project in Vietnam.

The key objective of the project (to be completed by December 2016) is to establish the first ever optometry program in Vietnam, based at the Pham Ngoc Thach Medical University in Ho Chi Minh City (PNTU). It has been designed with its sustainability at the core.

An exciting milestone has now been reached with the approval of the training code for the program. This means that the first students will be accepted into the new optometry course at PNTU commencing in late October 2014 and will graduate around 20 optometrists per year.

Minh AnhMinh Anh’s bright future
Pioneer Vietnamese Optometrist Tran Minh Anh (pictured) will play a crucial role in optometry education for the future and may be a visiting academic at PNTU.

In Vietnam there are as many as 36 million people including 3 million children who have vision impairment due to refractive error. It is estimated that Vietnam needs 2,000 optometrists to ensure adequate coverage for refractive errors. There are currently just three.

Minh Anh initially had no interest or knowledge about optometry. Though she was looking for a career Minh was unable to settle on any profession. Four years ago her mother suggested she go and try out for an interview about a ‘course’ on optometry. Minh decided to attend the interview and curiosity got the better of her.

Eventually she was able to purse her optometry studies with the LV Prasad Eye Institute in India. As she progressed in her course Minh Anh became more enthusiastic about the optometry profession and decided that she had in fact found her calling. It dawned on her that she may take a lead herself and address the lack of good eye care in her own country.

Fast forward to 2014 and Minh Anh is an optometrist with great ambition. In 2 years time she will complete her Masters of Clinical Optometry degree from the University of Melbourne. Minh Anh currently works at the Vietnam National Institute of Ophthalmology (VNIO) in the Refraction Department.

eye examDespite the difficulty of the introduction of optometry as a new profession in Vietnam Minh Anh is determined to make a difference. She understands solving the human resource challenge in Vietnam doesn’t just begin and end with eye examinations and dispensing corrective eye wear.

“Optometry itself has lots of scope. I would love to be an optometry educator to inspire the minds of other aspiring Vietnamese optometrists. By finishing my degree I have increased Vietnam’s optometrists by one third, and while this is an achievement, we need many, many more optometrists to meet the national need for eye care,” she said.

Her goal is to provide comprehensive eye care services to the Vietnamese community and to pass on her knowledge and train the next generation of optometrists. This dream is about to become reality.

Minh Anh is confident of the bright future of the optometry profession in Vietnam.

“Optometry is a developing profession with great potential to create change and is currently gaining recognition throughout the developing world. In Vietnam, I believe optometry is pivotal to improving the eye health of my people,” Minh Anh said.

She is thankful for her many opportunities and is ready to inspire others to dedicate themselves to the life transforming profession of optometry.

The project is managed by the Brien Holden Vision Institute (BHVI) with implementing partners Ho Chi Minh City Eye Hospital (HCMCEH), PNTU, Hanoi Medical University (HMU) and the Vietnam National Institute of Ophthalmology (VNIO) as supporting partner. Funding is provided by Optometry Giving Sight and AusAID. Funding for Tran Minh Anh’s training at LV Prasad Eye Institute was provided by the Brien Holden Vision Institute and the Eye Care Foundation (Netherlands). Photos courtesy of BHVI.