Being an Eye Health Hero granted me the opportunity to expand my network and interact with eye care professionals and enthusiasts across nations. It was a delight to join in on knowledge sessions and learn about leadership from opinion leaders like Caroline Casey and Andrew Stewart. I appreciated the many stories that were shared and found a common thread in all these stories that at the heart of what we do regardless of the field is the human being. Leaders are charged to lead others to their highest potential with constant learning, lots of failure and trying again and treating people with dignity. Actively listening to concerns and never making another feel insignificant are paramount. These speakers were not sharing trite knowledge but what they had experienced in their personal and professional life. It was inspiring to know their successes were not without struggles.
Aside from being a clinician, diagnosing and treating ocular diseases, I have chosen to commit to improving the public’s visual health literacy levels with the formation of Cherish Eyesight and Vision (CEV) Inc. This nonprofit organization explores the intersection of eye care and public health to help people attain their visual health potential by filling an educational gap. Majority of blindness can be prevented yet it is on the rise, in part due to the lack of visual health literacy. I am hoping to eliminate the “I did not know” factor with CEV’s Vision Tales Project where storytelling and animations are employed to create content on blindness and vision impairment and disseminated on social media. The tales are intended to inform, educate, and empower the public with accurate information to make informed choices about their eye health. The message in each tale is kept clear, and concise to make it memorable and improve understanding. We hope that these stories influence people’s mindset and cause an impactful change in the public’s health seeking behavior.
The issue of preventable blindness and vision loss is vast and no one person can address it so I am happy to be part of the EHH program where I can tap into resources and reach a global audience. It is always a thrill to have a conversation or just listen in on talks by like-minded individuals who have similar interests and shared goals where eye care is concerned. The EHH program gave me a peak of people actively working in their spaces to address blindness and vision impairment globally. Each knowledge session left me feeling invigorated.
I appreciate the opportunity to have been selected to be part of this development program and join efforts to address this very important global and public health issue.
Mary “Araba” Otoo, OD, MPH