PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti—Haiti’s first School of Optometry & Vision Sciences opened here on April 12 at the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy of I’Université d’État d’Haïti, according to an announcement from Optometry Giving Sight
. 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, their country and their fellow Haitians see a better future, quite literally, for generations to come.
Haiti has the highest level of blindness and vision impairment in the region—3 times higher than other neighboring countries—and most of this is avoidable. A contributing factor to this is the critical shortage of qualified eyecare personnel. In a country of over 10 million people there are only three local optometrists.
The shortage of eyecare services leaves the majority of the Haitian people without adequate vision care. The school’s 5-year degree program will seek to graduate 16 optometrists per year. “The new graduates will have a significant impact for the eyecare landscape in Haiti,” explained Dr. Juan Carlos Aragon, chair of Optometry Giving Sight. “Each optometrist will be able to see 3,000 patients per year, on average,” he said.
(L to R) Celebrating the opening of
the school are Dr. Shane Foster,
Vision Source with Kendy Jean Charles,
president of the first Optometry
Students in Haiti and Drs. Susan and
Thomas Quinn, Vision Source.
Jeff Duncan, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Vision Source, a major donor and partner to the project said, “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. Partnering with Optometry Giving Sight, underscores Vision Source's mission of ‘enriching lives by enabling independent optometrists to reach their full potential.’”
Drs. Susan and Tom Quinn, Vision Source optometrists from Ohio and Optometry Giving Sight supporters for over 10 years, traveled 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. We believe this school has the potential to profoundly transform lives.”
It is this sustainable attitude from the global optometric community that has brought them together with Optometry Giving Sight, a mission to provide vision care in Haiti and around the world, the announcement said. The school was supported by I’Université d’État d’Haïti, Brien Holden Vision Institute
, VOSH International
, Charity Vision
, I’Université de Montréal
, Vision Source
, Essilor Canada
and Digicel Foundation
To support the continuation of the Haiti Optometry Program and for further information contact Christina Sanko
, senior director of development at Optometry Giving Sight.