Classes are expected to start in October.
DENVER, CO — Haiti is set to get its first school of optometry.
The school will be a collaboration between l’Universite d’Etat d’Haiti, Brien Holden Vision Institute, Optometry Giving Sight, VOSH International and Charity Vision with support from the University of Montreal. The organizations have signed a memorandum of agreement for the project.
Shown here are Dr. David McPhillips (VOSH), UEH Recteur Mr. Fritz Deshommes and UEH Dean of Medicine Dr. Jean Claude Cadet signing the MOA.
It's hoped that the first students will begin 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 l’Universite d’Etat d’Haiti. “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 three optometrists and 58 ophthalmologists (six 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 percent) of people to access primary eyecare services.
"This project will seek to graduate 16 optometrists per year, in what will be a five-year Bachelor of Vision Science degree,” said Dr. Luigi Bilotto, director global human resource development, Brien Holden Vision Institute. "This means within 10 years, there will be 80 new locally educated eyecare professionals who will be providing eyecare to more than 360,000 Haitians per annum."
Dr. Ellen Weiss, president of VOSH International, said the development of a locally trained workforce will have a huge impact on the well-being of people in Haiti.
“VOSH chapters have been undertaking voluntary mission trips to Haiti for many years,” Weiss said. “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 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 also acknowledged the support of the National Council for the Prevention of Blindness, the Port au Prince Chapter of Lions and Digicel.