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Vision Excellence Awards: Wolfgang Gindorfer

Wolfgang Gindorfer

An entire career dedicated to quality glasses for those who need them most

In 1985, Wolfgang Gindorfer had a mission: to bring eye health to the most underprivileged populations in Sub-Saharan Africa. That mission started by founding the Benedictan Eye Hospital in Tororo, Uganda. Over the years, it became clear that despite growing numbers, Uncorrected Refractive Errors were mostly neglected in the global initiative Vision2020. In addition, there was no functional large-scale programme in Sub-Saharan Africa, providing quality glasses. Too many programmes compromised on quality, opted for quick wins or had optical workshops that were simply too small to produce at scale. With this in mind, Wolfgang embarked on a journey in 2008. Together with Light for the World and in cooperation with the International Council of Ophthalmology, he set up the National Intervention on Uncorrected Refractive Errors in Uganda (NIURE). From the beginning and for 10 years, the NIURE-pilot initiative was integrated in and implemented in close collaboration with the government. The components embraced training and human resource development, equipment, provision of supplies and the whole logistics around it.

While focussing on government ownership and integration, particular attention was given to the potential of private business for optical services. Combining strengths of government-run services and privately-run businesses, a public-private partnership was formed, allowing both sides to benefit. The journey has not yet ended but the programme has been successfully handed over to the Uganda government and its Ministry of Health. To date it also has already produced impressive results:

– More than 1,140 teachers were trained in focal districts and have pre-screened 280.000 children
– 74 trained ophthalmic clinical officers in refraction based all over the country who have conducted 232.000 refractions
– 5 graduated optometrists, and all 4 year courses now established
– a central optical workshop and logistics centre based at Entebbe General Referral hospital that has produced over 20.000 spectacles
– A courier system which guarantees spectacles within max. 3 working days to be delivered to all the above mentioned refractive services throughout the Country.

Wolfgang has immensely contributed to the core of Vision 2020 and the Global Action Plan – to rid the world of avoidable blindness and visual impairment – in a sustainable and cost-effective way. His aim was and still is to not compromise on quality – no matter what. Wolfgang takes this rich experience from over 35 years and continues to support the establishment of services for Uncorrected Refractive Errors in other Sub Saharan African countries.

Light for the World would wish for Wolfgang’s wisdom and commitment for at least another 35 years – but definitely until his well deserved retirement at some point!