The optometry world just got a little bigger as it welcomes the grand opening of the first college of optometry in Haiti. The School of Optometry & Vision Sciences at the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy of l’Université d’État d’Haïti plans to admit its first class of 19 students starting October of 2018. Funded by the Brien Holden Vision Institute, Optometry Giving Sight, VOSH International, and Charity Vision with support from University of Montreal, the program aims to graduate all students with a 5-year Bachelor of Vision Science degree.
Currently, the nation of Haiti has only 58 ophthalmologists and 3 optometrists for its current population of 10 million people. Needless to say, preventable eye diseases, binocular vision disorders, and chronic systemic disease have gone largely unchecked in previous years. Most medical professionals stay within Haïti’s capital Port-au-Prince, but the school’s goal is to provide more access to optometrists throughout the island.
According to a 2012 study performed by the National Medical Association, Haiti currently has one of the highest risks for glaucoma (20%), a preventable eye disease that can result in complete blindness. According to the study, early intervention and treatment can stop the progression of the disease as well as remedy other vision disorders such as refractive error and binocular vision conditions, and delay cataract onset.
For students and doctors, this new school offers opportunities for medical mission work in Haiti as well as space for academic conferences, public health information sessions, and future facility expansions. Haiti has suffered recently from earthquakes and hurricanes that have left much of the island in disarray, but the completion of this new facility is a huge step in regaining stability for medical prosperity on the island. Students will start taking classes in the medical school and will eventually transfer over to the new optometry building for clinical experience.
Graduates from Ohio State’s College of Optometry, Dr. Susan Quinn, Dr. Thomas Quinn, and Dr. Shane Foster, were integral in the school’s opening and pledge to help sustain the program and the infrastructure for many years to come. The Quinns have a history of previous mission work, both in Nicaragua and Honduras, but venturing to Haiti was a first for the dynamic duo. Both doctors are members of Vision Source, a private practice alliance group, and the primary charity of Vision Source is Optometry Giving Sight. For both doctors, it was a no-brainer to aid in optometric outreach this Spring. “In Haiti, the need for eye care is profound. In our outreach clinics, we had a chance to work with 19 bright, motivated, and caring pioneers: the first class of students at the School of Optometry in Haiti. It’s a start. It’s a great start! But this program will only succeed with our continued support,” says Dr Thomas Quinn.
If you are interested in helping with the success of The School of Optometry & Vision Science or any other optometric mission work, financial support to Optometry Giving Sight and VOSH are great ways to contribute.
On behalf of OptometryStudents.com, we wish a happy birthday and congratulations to Haiti’s new college of optometry!