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Today marks the momentous occasion of Uganda’s first batch of optometrists graduating at Makerere University in Kampala after completing the first optometry degree ratified in Uganda. The graduating optometrists are the first locally trained optometrists for their country and will act as the primary eye carers for optometry services for the population.
Uganda is one of the African countries supporting optometry as a relevant profession to help solve their nation’s burgeoning eye care needs. Currently, there are less than 10 practicing optometrists in Uganda to service the population of 40 million, all of which received their training overseas.
Professor Charles Ibigira, Principal of the College of Health Sciences, Makerere University spoke enthusiastically. “Makerere University is very grateful for the support to start the much needed Optometry program from Brien Holden Vision Institute by providing high tech equipment, curriculum development, human resources and inspiration through their vision. This has put Makerere University in the lead by providing optometry training and optometry services in Uganda, done in partnership with the College of Heath Sciences.”
The progression of having locally trained optometrists in Uganda will raise the efficiency of eye care services by increasing access for the population and strengthen referral pathways enabling great cost-effectiveness for the existing health systems. Optometrists will relieve ophthalmologists from providing eye care services like refraction and prescribing glasses, allowing them to focus on medical and surgical treatments of care.
Dr Naomi Nsubuga, Sub-regional Manager, Brien Holden Vision Institute has been an active proponent in the development of optometry in Uganda since 2004. “It gives me great pleasure knowing we can now train optometrists locally in Uganda using internationally developed teaching materials and using the latest advanced equipment. The graduate optometrists from Makerere University will provide much needed optometry services to the people of Uganda,” she said.
Establishing the School of Optometry at Makerere University took more than ten years of intense planning, negotiations and collaboration by many dedicated partners working closely with the University. These included the Brien Holden Vision Institute, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, University of New South Wales in Australia, Optometry Giving Sight, Light for the World, and the Optometrist Association of Uganda. Together all partners are collectively overjoyed to celebrate the first graduation as a landmark achievement for Uganda.
Dr Anguyo Dralega, Head of the Optometry School, Makerere University said excitedly. “The young optometrists are the building blocks for a sustainable eye care service in Uganda, which has a population of around 39.5 million people. They will relieve the country’s 45 ophthalmologists from the management of eye conditions, allowing them to concentrate on other areas of specialties. Additionally, the optometrists will help improve the quality of life for many Ugandans with uncorrected vision impairment by providing refraction services and appropriate glasses. The benefit of this simple measure cannot be underestimated by a life diminished through poor vision.”