Following the success of last year’s Australia Awards Fellowship, hosted by the Brien Holden Vision Institute, funding has been awarded again by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) to run the Fellowship in 2013, providing a sizeable boost to global optometry faculty development. This year eighteen candidates will join the Fellowship program in Australia from the Western Pacific and South Asian regions – including Fiji, India, Papua New Guinea, Pakistan and Vietnam.
The Fellowship has a public health emphasis and is focused on increasing the teaching capacity of faculty motivated to develop locally qualified eye care personnel. While the emphasis is on optometric educators, the curriculum this year also caters for ophthalmic nurses and ophthalmologists, which aims to broaden the development of teaching infrastructure and enhance a team approach to eye health.
Last year in July 2012, twenty people from five nations were brought together in Sydney from China, Ethiopia, India, Vietnam and Pakistan joining the three week Fellowship program. The main aim of the program was to promote knowledge sharing and enhance the capacity of faculty to deliver quality optometry education, and a secondary aim was to establish enduring ties between the new generation of global leaders in eye care.
Six months on the Institute researched how the training from the Fellowship had helped the participants in their role to lead optometry education in their countries. From the responses received it seems the program had also been catalytic in encouraging participants to play a leadership role beyond their countries.
“Thank you for offering me the opportunity to be the bearer of good news – I believe the Fellowship program has yielded some long term benefits across the world,” Mr Nilesh Thite, a fellow from India. “The University of Gondar in Ethiopia has started a post graduate program in optometry and I was invited as guest faculty to deliver a course on advanced contact lenses to the post graduate optometry students,” he said.
Mr Thite’s is an optometrist and an Associate Professor who works as the Director of Educational Programs in Pune, India. He met and began a professional relationship with the two fellows from Ethiopia, Mr Haile Woretaw and Mr Alemayehu Desalegn, in Sydney during the Fellowship workshops.
Mr Desalegn from Ethiopia spoke about his colleague’s visit, “The plan of our faculty is to make our university a centre of eye care excellence in optometry services and to train many qualified optometrists to serve our large population of 80 million people. With Mr Thite’s visit to Gondar, we feel we are moving in the right direction to make this happen.”
Fellow Ms Shazia Noreen from Pakistan spoke about her experience since returning home, “The Fellowship training improved our knowledge on the development potential of the faculty and helped our understanding of how this will greatly benefit our role in public eye health. A local institution is now moving towards initiating a master’s course in vision sciences, which is definitely a big step towards increasing capacity of the faculty and preparing candidates for the future progress,” she said.
“Visiting the college and the university in Australia gave us a great experience in how to organise the pre-clinic and clinic for the School of Optometry,” said Mr Tran Hoai Long, a fellow from Vietnam. “This has helped us begin to develop a better practise for our future training centre. Also we have learnt how to integrate the public health component into our practise as this was an important element which was not previously focused on,” he said.
Mr Babu Noushad Pilaparambil from India, responded in an equally positive way when asked about progress, “The focus in the training was in areas like curriculum development and research, which for us were the two most useful themes, as both these aspects are in a transformation phase in the department of optometry at our college. We have already begun significant changes to the optometry curriculum taught here and also to the research practises we are following,” he said.
Attending guest lecturer Professor Kovin Naidoo, Institute Global Programs Director reflected on progress made over the last year, “I remember saying at the closing session last year that if we have further developed the skills and knowledge of the fellows and they pass that on through their education institutions it will ultimately benefit their communities in the long term. This is exactly what has happened – which is a great achievement for both the optometry profession and also for the global communities who are in most need of eye care. This program is an example of the Institute’s commitment to empower others to take the lead in serving their people,” said Professor Naidoo.
Selina Madeleine, Communications Manager, Public Health Division, (02) 9385 5282, +61 414 071149, email@example.com