In a celebration that has been more than five years in the making, Haiti’s first-ever optometric school is open. Created by Optometry Giving Sight (OGS) and its global optometric partners, the school is a huge step toward battling the preventable vision impairment issues that have long plagued the impoverished country.
Yesterday marked the official opening of Haiti’s School of Optometry & Vision Sciences at the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy of I’Université d’État d’Haïti.
According to OGS, Haiti has the highest level of blindness and vision impairment in the region (three times higher than other countries in the region), and most of this is preventable. An important reason for this is the critical shortage of qualified eyecare personnel. In a country of over 10 million people, there are only three local optometrists.
Over the last five years, Optometry Giving Sight and its partners from the global optometric community have come together to ensure that the people of Haiti can be trained to help their own communities, see a better future, literally.
The shortage of eyecare services leaves the majority of the Haitian people without adequate vision care. The school’s five-year degree program has a goal of graduating 16 optometrists per year. “The new graduates will have a significant impact for the eye care landscape in Haiti”, explains Dr. Juan Carlos Aragon, chair of OGS, “each being able to see 3,000 patients per year on average.”
Drs. Susan and Tom Quinn, Vision Source optometrists from Ohio and OGS supporters for more than 10 years, travelled to Haiti this week to take part in the school’s first community outreach programs. “We’ve seen firsthand how the work of Optometry Giving Sight delivers on the vision of building optometry schools, educating talented local young people, and providing continuity of care in underserved countries around the globe,” they said in a statement. “We believe this [school] has the potential to profoundly transform lives.”
Jeff Duncan, executive vice president & COO for Vision Source, a major donor and partner to the project, says: “With virtually no optometrists, there has been limited opportunity for the Haitians to obtain quality vision care. Vision Source feels privileged to play a role in helping build a sustainable foundation to change this.”
Major contributors—both in financial support and volunteer support—of the project with OGS are
Brien Holden Vision Institute, VOSH International, Charity Vision, I’Université de Montréal, Vision Source, Essilor Canada, and Digicel Foundation.
For more information, see givingsight.org.
To see some video about OGS' work in Haiti and the creation of the school:
Show here: A gathering at the opening of the Haiti School of Optometry (top); Susan Quinn, O.D., examines a young girl during an outreach clinic in Haiti (bottom)