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UKZN Signs MOU with State University of New York to Improve Optometry Services

February 22, 2016

UKZN-SUNY delegates after signing the MOU. 
UKZN has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with its international partners from the State University of New York (SUNY) to improve the provision and accessibility of optometry services to all South Africans.

The signing took place the UKZN’s Westville campus where South African Optometric Association (SAOA) President, Mr Patrick Mawila, said to avoid later regrets, 2016 was the year for academics, government and SAOA to make the availability of quality optometric services to all citizens a priority. 

Previously, only those trained as ophthalmologists (specialists in medical and surgical eye problems) could prescribe ocular therapeutic drugs to patients in South Africa.

The SUNY-UKZN partnership recently produced its first cohort of graduates from a first-of-its-kind ocular therapeutics programme where nation-wide optometrists advanced their skills.

‘The significant move to introduce optometry services into the public sector will require optometrists to work in remote areas and more often than not without the backing of ophthalmic medical officers or ophthalmology services,’ said UKZN Academic Leader for Optometry, Ms Vanessa Moodley.

‘South Africa faces a host of public eye health challenges. Enhancing patient care and reducing avoidable blindness means a lot to us at UKZN,’ she said.

The signing was attended by UKZN’s Executive Director of Corporate Relations, Mr Lesiba Seshoka, and the Dean and Head of the School of Health Sciences, Professor Mahmoud Soliman.

Studies indicate that about 49 million people in the world are blind, and in South Africa, causes of blindness and visual impairment include cataracts (66 percent), glaucoma (14 percent), refractive error (10 percent) and 10 percent due to other conditions, including trachoma.

SUNY partners, Dr David Heath and Dr Richard Soden, delivered presentations on Health Care, Optometry and Education at SUNY’s College of Optometry, highlighting various areas of possible collaboration in research, teaching and learning.

Lunga Memela

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