VOSH/International’s Ghana Contact Lens Project

A Personal Perspective from Dr. Deepa Chandrasekaran

In 2000, my classmate Angela Ofeibea Amedo who was a Fulbright Scholar from Ghana, and I were chatting while I was doing my Master’s in Vision Science at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).  I told her then that I was really interested in going to Ghana, and 19 years later, I received an email from the International Association of Contact Lens Educators (IACLE) that Volunteer Optometric Services for Humanity (VOSH)/International was seeking a volunteer to support their efforts in Ghana as part of their Ghana Contact Lens Project. Dr. Amedo was not there to receive us in Ghana, but a 19-year-old yearning was fulfilled.

My name is Deepa Chandrasekaran. I am an optometrist at the Vanderbilt Eye Institute in Nashville, Tennessee.  I specialize in fitting contact lenses for different eye conditions.  In November 2019, I got a great opportunity through a grant from VOSH/International to be able to lecture about specialty contact lenses and how to fit them, to the students and staff at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Department of Optometry and Visual Sciences in Kumasi, Ghana. I was also privileged to lecture to the optometrists as part of the Ghana Optometric Association meeting in Kumasi.

Picture 1. KNUST Optometry Faculty and Teaching Assistants (left to right) Ellen K Antwi-Adjei, Randolf Kwaw, Edward Blibo, Abdul-Kabir Mohammed, Deepa Chandrasekaran, Kwadwo Owusu Akuffo, Nana Yaa Koomson (Head of Department), Emmanuel Owusu, Emmanuel Owusu Poku

 

The family and I left for Accra, Ghana on November 15th.  Little did we know how much we were going to learn about Ghana, the food, the hospitality and the culture.  Even before we left, we had a magnanimous offer from the Provost of the College of Science and Technology at KNUST to fly us all from Accra to Kumasi (our initial plan was to fly in to Accra and then to be driven to Kumasi) as the university vehicle which was supposed to take us from Accra to Kumasi had broken down.

Dr. Emmanuel Kobia-Acquah, one of the faculty members at KNUST Department of Optometry and Visual Sciences, initiated the process and helped in coordinating my visit by collaborating with VOSH/International. The Head of the Department of Optometry, Dr. Nana Yaa Kwantwiwah Koomson, made all arrangements on-site (accommodation and local transportation in Kumasi and Accra). She had also arranged for my husband, Dr. Kalai Mugilan to give a couple of lectures to the university faculty and students about “Emotional Intelligence.” My lecture at KNUST was scheduled for 6 days from 9 am to 1 pm.  For 5 days, I lectured for about 3 hours and spent the last hour doing practical with the students and staff.  Dr. Emmanuel Owusu helped me in setting up the power point presentation and lining up students/patients for the practical session in their clinic. On the 6th day, I lectured to the optometrists as part of the Ghana Optometric Association meeting with instrumental help from Dr. Ellen Konadu Antwi-Adjei, another faculty member, who made all the arrangements to have this part of my session go as smoothly as possible.  The optometrists also got a chance to fit a keratoconic patient with a gas permeable contact lens during their practical session.

From the time we reached Kumasi, until we left for Accra, we were supported every step of the way. We had an assigned car and driver during the whole trip.  Our driver turned out to be our tour guide and personal translator to the cultural norms. Our son and my husband were so intrigued by one of the major local languages spoken by the Ashanti people, Twi. We bought a book to learn more phrases and started trying to talk to the locals in Twi the best we could.

Overall, my trip to Ghana was not only professionally satisfying but also personally and emotionally refreshing. THANKS to IACLE, VOSH/International, & KNUST for making our trip to Ghana a memorable one!

Dr Deepa Chandrasekaran and 4th year KNUST Optometry Students

 

 

 

Notes
In 2019 VOSH/International was awarded a XOVA (Excellence in Ophthalmology Vision Award) grant to implement a project at KNUST, Ghana to increase the knowledge of local eye care personnel on rigid gas permeable lenses (RGPs). This project will establish a lab and facilitate the visit of faculty to teach at the school of optometry, so they are able to offer RGP services to the local population on regular basis.

Comments 4

  1. February 21, 2020

    John W. Randall, OD, MPH

    Dreams coming true! KNUST students and faculty asked just for this on my WCO Fellowship in 2001-3. I also did not get the opportunity to work directly with Dr. Ameddo, Dr. Chandrasekaran’s friend and colleague because she was beside you at UAB getting her own Masters and PhD. Congratulations to you Deepa, KNUST Optometry and VOSH on this step forward for eye and vision care in Ghana.

  2. February 21, 2020

    Benjamin Appiah-Nyamekye

    Pouring out one’s self is the best gift to humanity. God bless you for sharing your knowledge and skills.

  3. February 21, 2020

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Updated COVID-19 and VOSH Humanitarian Clinics Advice

VOSH/International recently consulted its US and International Chapters about the feasibility and timing to restart our humanitarian clinics. While the vaccination process continues with different levels of success depending on availability and acceptance, it is evident that vaccine inequity and the availability and reliability of data in several countries are issues we need to consider.

Even if already vaccinated, our chapters are still concerned about the wellbeing of our volunteers and patients.  Some chapters, are organizing clinics locally where they are better able to comply with the existing safety requirements and respective state/country regulations.

The COVID-19 pandemic is being experienced quite differently depending on state, region, country, vaccine availability, vaccine acceptance, and the spread of SARS-COV-2 variants. Most VOSH chapters are not holding clinics or traveling internationally in 2021.

Thus, VOSH/International is slightly moderating its overall guidance against clinics and travel issued in late March 2020 and renewed in January 2021. This will be reviewed and communicated on a quarterly basis.

If a VOSH Chapter choses to hold a clinic or travel internationally, we highly recommend that the chapter performs due diligence to comply fully with the requirements established by the visited country, ensures all VOSH volunteers are aware of and follow strict safety guidelines and all existing protocols and regulations of the country, and keeps the principle of “do no harm” embedded in all its decision making. As always, the wellbeing and safety for VOSH volunteers and our patients is of utmost importance and central to any decision-making process. We have published our updated clinic guidelines with best practices to be observed in this new context. VOSH chapters in specific countries are using protocols that need to be considered as well. You can download VOSH/International clinic guidelines here.

*VOSH/International is formed by autonomous US and international chapters that are fully and only responsible for their activities, fundraising and decision-making.  VOSH/International can only provide recommendations based on our best knowledge and information at the time.

Also please keep checking the following sites with official and most recent updates:

World Health Organisation: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

US CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/when-to-delay-travel.html

US Government Travel Advise: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/COVID-19-Country-Specific-Information.html

Thank you for your hard work and dedication to improving vision and eye health throughout the world.

John Daniel Twelker, OD, PhD, FAAO, FVI

President, VOSH/International

July 2021