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Australian support garners first Ugandan-trained optometrists

22/01/2019By Myles Hume
Australian institutions have been influential in helping Uganda produce its first group of locally trained optometrists, a milestone that sets the foundation for ongoing sustainable eye care services for the African country.

Five students from Makerere University, in Kampala, last week completed the country’s first ratified optometry degree, a culmination of 10 years’ work involving the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs, Brien Holden Vision Institute (BHVI), the University of New South Wales and charity Optometry Giving Sight.

The establishment of the program and first round of graduates is seen as an important step in overcoming a major practitioner shortage in Uganda. The country has fewer than 10 practicing optometrists – all of whom were trained overseas – for 40 million people.

“They will relieve the country’s 45 ophthalmologists from the management of eye conditions, allowing them to concentrate on other areas of specialties.”
Dr Anguyo Dralega, Makerere University.

Dr Anguyo Dralega, head of the university’s Optometry School, said the graduates would prove to be the building blocks for sustainable primary eye care services in Uganda, increase patient access and strengthen referral pathways.

“They will relieve the country’s 45 ophthalmologists from the management of eye conditions, allowing them to concentrate on other areas of specialties. Additionally, the optometrists will help improve the quality of life for many Ugandans with uncorrected vision impairment by providing refraction services and appropriate glasses. The benefit of this simple measure cannot be underestimated by a life diminished through poor vision,” he said.

Australian agencies were pivotal in the program’s development by providing high-tech equipment, curriculum development, human resources and experience.

Ms Petronella Nichols, Africa regional director for BHVI, added: “Today we see the first optometry students graduate in Uganda because of the collaborative efforts and shared vision of all partners and stakeholders.

“With these pioneer graduates we greatly look forward to seeing optometry services reaching many more Ugandans in need of glasses and facilitating referrals for more serious eye conditions such as cataract and glaucoma.’’

Photo Credit: Brien Holden Vision Institute (BHVI) for image

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