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. If you would like to contribute and be a part of this wonderful program and others please donate here.
Photo above: 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