It did not take long for things to move into high gear for the 19 pioneering students in the new Optometry Program and clinic that opened last weekend in Haiti. Once qualified, these first generation optometrists will use their skills to address the unmet eye care need across the nation. There are currently only three optometrists and 56 ophthalmologists to serve Haiti’s population of 10 million people.
Haiti has the highest levels of blindness and moderate or severe vision impairment among people aged 50 and over, in the entire Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region, with the age-standardised prevalence estimated at 4.8% and 21.9% respectively. This is three times greater than some other countries in the region.
VOSH/International is a major collaborating partner in the Haiti Optometry Program along with with I’Université d’État d’Haïti, Brien Holden Vision Institute, Optometry Giving Sight, Charity Vision, and l’Université de Montréal. Drs. Paul Halpern, Dave McPhillips, both VOSH-PA represented VOSH.
Two small VOSH led outreach trips involving the new students were done the day before and after the school opening ceremony and launch event organized by Dr. David McPhillips, VOSH-PA and past VOSH/International President, on request from Brien Holden Vision Institute, a key collaborating partner. The VOSH team included winners of a Vision Source contest including doctors Thomas and Susan Quinn and Shane Foster from Ohio and Dr. Christine Bowman. Vision Source is a large organization of private practice optometrists nationwide that has contributed significant funds to the new school.