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Australian university lends support to Uganda optometry training program

13/03/2019By Myles Hume
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Academics from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) will oversee the future development of Uganda’s first endorsed optometry degree, consolidating a major project that recently saw the country celebrate its first batch of homegrown optometrists.

In an initiative to support dramatic expansion of healthcare in the African country, Associate Professor Isabelle Jalbert and Dr Kathleen Watt – from the UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science – will lead a team to train local optometrists, manage the formation of specialist eye health programs and oversee curriculum development at Makerere University, Kampala.

The team will visit the University four times during 2019 to teach students and support the faculty. They will have a particular focus on specialised fields of advanced contact lenses training, binocular vision, paediatric optometry, and ocular diseases.

Isabelle Jalbert
Isabelle Jalbert
“The current ophthalmologists working in Ugandan hospitals are unable to meet demand. By training local optometrists, we are helping to supply primary eye care services which is key for triaging patients and providing vision screening and services across regions.”
Assoc Prof Isabelle Jalbert, UNSW

The project follows Uganda achieving a major milestone in January when five local students completed the country’s first approved optometry degree at Makarere University. The initiative was the culmination of 10 years’ work involving the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs, Brien Holden Vision Institute, the UNSW and charity Optometry Giving Sight.

Prior to their graduation, the country had fewer than 10 practicing optometrists – all of whom were trained overseas – for 40 million people. The graduates are expected to relieve the country’s 45 ophthalmologists from the management of eye conditions, allowing them to concentrate on other specialties.

Jalbert said the UNSW team would also teach practical workshops and provide online training material that students could access outside of the visits.

“The optometry faculty at Makerere University is in the process of being built up and is very stretched in covering all the teaching required,” she said.

Jalbert said the school’s expansion and ongoing work of Makerere University was helping establish Uganda as a leader for developing a sustainable East African optometry program.

“The current ophthalmologists working in Ugandan hospitals are unable to meet demand. By training local optometrists, we are helping to supply primary eye care services which is key for triaging patients and providing vision screening and services across regions,” she said.

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More reading:

Australian support garners first Ugandan-trained optometrists

 

IMAGE CAPTION: The UNSW’s Dr Kathleen Watt and Associate Professor Isabelle Jalbert with students at the Makerere University Optometry and Vision Science Teaching Clinic in Uganda.

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