The Modern day Indian Optometry

 The latest developments in the profession

Indian Optometry is not the same what it was ten years ago. The profession has remarkably developed over these years. These latest developments are going to be pivotal in streamlining the profession and laying perfect path for obtaining recognition and regulation to the profession. In a series of articles Ms Lakshmi Shinde describes the latest developments in the profession.

About the author

Ms Lakshmi Shinde is the Chief Executive Officer of the Optometry Council of India (OCI), Ms Shinde also holds the position of Manager for global education for International Association of Contact Lens Educators (IACLE). She obtained her basic optometry degree from Elite School of Optometry, India; later she obtained a Masters degree (by research) from the University of New South Wales, Australia. She has vast experience in the contact lens field. She had worked as a Contact Lens consultant at L V Prasad Eye Institute and was also involved in Contact Lens research projects with the then Centre for Cornea and Contact Lens Research (CCLRU), presently Brien Holden Vision Institute.

Eye care in India has changed quite a bit over a last few decades.  There have been new cadres added to eye care and at the same time professional courses such as optometry have gained importance. Although, optometry as a profession is at a nascent stage in India, its contribution to eye care is not to be ignored.

The beginning of the modern day Indian Optometry

In 2008, at an optometry conference held in Delhi & Agra, hosted by the Indian Optometry Association (IOA)- Dr Satya Verma (representative from World Council of Optometry - WCO, lecturer at Pennsylvania College of Optometry), urged all the optometry associations to come under one umbrella. This meeting was attended by members of the Asia Pacific Optometry Council (APOC), WCO and other dignitaries and the proposal was ought to enable lobbying with the government for the profession become easier.

Formation of Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry, India

Unfortunately, the proposal evolved during 2008’s optometry meeting did not materialize, however, there was a betterment move for optometry education led by the formation and functioning of Association of Schools and Colleges of optometry, India chapter (ASCO, India). Around the same time, India saw a few optometry colleges mushrooming around the country as well. Dr Krishna Kumar (Principal, Elite school of optometry), then an educator and administrator of the Elite School of Optometry urged all the representatives of IOA to involve in education and have a standard curriculum for Optometry in India.

This led to the gathering of a team of expert educators who discussed about the curriculum, subjects, duration of course and a final version called “Common Minimum Optometry Curriculum” was formulated in 2010. It is to be noted that all this work was done on a voluntary basis. Few educators who contributed to the syllabus were Dr Krishna Kumar (Principal, Elite Schools of optometry), Ms Prema Chande (Principal, Lotus College of optometry), Mr Aditya Goyal (Educator, Head of department optometry, Sankara Group of Institutions), Mr Yeshwant Saoji (Educator & private practitioner) and Ms Kunda Ganatra (then president IOA) to mention a few.

Once the curriculum was formulated, ASCO India took the initiative to distribute this curriculum free of cost to all the educational institutions and also persuaded them to implement the same in their respective institutes.

Then the next project was to formulate a competency document which would list the competencies that an optometrist should have when he/she graduates from a 4 year program.

Developments on the political side

Simultaneously, there were also developments happening in the political arena of optometry too. During the 2006 Optometry conference in Goa which included APCO and WCO members, Vision 2020 was in the limelight. The optometry leaders had a meeting with APCO, WCO and Vision 2020 to look at how optometry could be regulated and Mr Rajesh Wadhwa (private practitioner, member of IOA) and Mr Ajeet Bharadwaj (past president IOA, India representative to APCO) formulated a document for the ‘VISION Council” which included optometrists as well. However, this initiative did not succeed well due to lack of coordinated effort.

The Delhi Declaration – landmark mile stone in Indian Optometry and support from Prof Brien Holden

The team at the Delhi Declaration - 2010

In 2009, Ms Lakshmi Shinde (Chief Executive Officer,  Optometry Council of India or OCI), who was then working with IACLE (International association of contact lens educators) and ICEE ( International centre for eye care education, presently Brien Holden Vision Institute, BHVI)was planning to meet with Prof Brien Holden during his visit to India in 2010 January. She was pleasantly surprised to learn that Prof Holden was visiting India, not only as the Chief Executive Officer of BHVI, but as the chair of Australia India Council (AIC). He was travelling along with a team of experts, which consisted of traffic experts, coal mine experts and others with the motive of identifying areas to improve the collaboration between Australia and India.

Prof Holden used this opportunity very wisely to organize optometry as a profession and invited all stake holders to have a one day meeting in April 2010, at Delhi with an aspiration to unite all the diversified associations.

It was a landmark meeting, (sponsored by AIC)which was attended by many associations, educators, well wishers of optometry and also a few educators and policy makers from Australia such as Dr Jane Duffy from OCANZ (the Australia New Zealand council) and Dr Peter Hendicott (Professor, The University of Melbourne, Department of Optometry). All the stake holders then discussed the future of optometry and also signed the landmark Delhi Declaration- a milestone achievement for optometry in India. As a follow up, the Delhi declaration was circulated to all government officials, industry and stake holders in eye care.

Following the land mark meeting, the delegates were invited by the then Australian High commissioner Honorable Mr Peter Varghese to his residence for dinner. Each and every optometrist (around 15 of them) were introduced to Honorable Mr Varghese at the beginning of the session and it was mesmerizing to note he remembered everyone’s  names till the end when he addressed all of them by their names and thanked them for coming and making the event successful.

 

Launch of IOF by Prof Brien Holden and Australian High Commisioner to India, John Mc Carthy. Mr Rajesh Wadhwa can also be seen in the picture

In the year of 2010, Prof Holden visited India 3-4 times and by December 2010, the Indian Optometry Federation (IOF) was formed with 14 national and state associations as its members. It was launched at the All India Optometry Conference on 29th January, 2011, in Jaipur.

 

On the educational front, ASCO along with its team of educators was simultaneously working on the entry level competency document which was later launched in January 2012.

This is just the beginning of modern Indian Optometry

This article covers how most to the organization in optometry in the initial years was very much a voluntary work and a commendable job done by all the contributors towards ASCO as an organization. The article that follows will throw light on how various organizations were established and staffs were employed so that work could progress much faster. Optometry in India has definitely taken giant steps and giant steps in the right direction. India was at an advantage of learning from all other countries and was careful not to make the mistakes done elsewhere in the world towards organizing the profession. Optometry still has a long way to go, in order to reach a standard where the profession would be preferred over medical profession by youngsters, as seen in some developed parts of the world.

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