I am an alumnus from the first graduating group (2011) from the inaugural school of Optometry at the African Institute of Tropical Ophthalmology (IOTA) in Mali, which has since produced a total of 44 Optometric Technicians for francophone West Africa. I am very proud and grateful to be part of the emerging Optometry program, as I understand the greater impact of how Optometry can change the face of eye care in Mali.
Since graduating, I have worked as an Optometric Technician and junior faculty at IOTA. Currently, I am lucky enough to be in Canada embarking on my Master’s in Optometry at l’École d’optométrie de l’université de Montréal.
This great opportunity has come about after two long years of campaigning to get here and thanks to the support of various organisations and individuals, my dream has finally become a reality.
I was very lucky to be welcomed by Carole Melançon and Jean-Marie Desroches whom I met in Mali as trainers at the IOTA in 2011. My initial stay with these kind supporters allowed me to acclimate myself socially and culturally in the backdrop of Quebec, and to familiarise myself a little with the practice of local Optometry by spending a few days in the private practice of Dr Melançon.
Studying my Master’s will, as the first graduate of l’IOTA Optometry program to get a post-graduate degree, enabled me to work as a fully qualified Optometrist with the ability to lecture at IOTA as part of the emerging faculty. Some of the immediate benefits I know I am developing as a practitioner as I move thorough my studies here in Canada are improving my daily practice skills and knowledge with specific diagnoses, which is enabling me to understand the true power of competence in practice. Also on a practical level the study will help me deepen my knowledge not only in eye health and clinical care, but it will also give me insight on how to plan and structure possible research activities.
I would truly like thank Optometry Giving Sight, Brien Holden Vision Institute, Lions Sight International, IOTA and l’École d’optométrie de l’université de Montréal for their support, funding and belief in our future potential in Mali.