The Modern day Indian Optometry

 The latest developments in the profession - Part 2

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 this second part of two part 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.

At the outset let me wish each and everyone of you a Very Happy And Prosperous New Year!!!

 

I am optimistic that 2016 will be a great year in the profession of optometry and I wish all of you success in all your endeavors, not only professionally but in every aspect of life.

 

On 27th January 2011, Indian Optometry federation was launched at the annual conference of the All India Optometry Association in Jaipur. It was well attended and the then consulate general of Australia Mr. John McCarthy and Prof. Brien Holden along with the acting President of IOF Mr. Rajesh Wadhwa inaugurated the opening.

 

Following the launch of IOF, we had to look at strategies of how to collectively work ahead and also open dialogue with the government. One of the action plans was to work on competency levels that a graduate optometrist should attain before he graduates from an optometry course. For this purpose a task force was selected, primarily comprising of educators from ASCO. Both the competency document of Australia and the General Optical Council (United Kingdom) was used as a reference. Both had their own pros and cons. The Australian document was good at detailing, whereas the GOC was very compact and structured very well. We were being at the advantage to choose what we want to went for the best of both worlds.

 

 

ASCO and its educators worked on the competency document. Simultaneously, the government was looking at all the courses that did not have a council and was looking at forming an overarching body which will include the Medical Council of India as well (MCI). However, in the year to come this proposal did not work as MCI did not agree to be under any overarching body. ASCO had several meetings, and one of them was in August 2011, at Sankara Nethralaya, where all major school heads were invited, and the importance of competency discussed. A representative from PHFI (Public Health Foundation of India) which was seconded with the job of looking into all allied courses was also invited for this meeting.

 

 

In 2011, once IOF elections were over in September 2011 and the body started to function, the next entity to look at was a self-regulatory body. Prof. Brien was very keen that optometry should have a self-regulatory body, which governs itself so that, once it gained more and more registrations, the same body would be taken over by the government.

 

On the event of world sight day in 2011, Indian Optometry Federation and ASCO together launched an eye care awareness campaign through standees. A standard protocol for eye screening was devised by ASCO and distributed to all interested participants. A total of 120 standees were distributed throughout India. It was a massive exercise and it was a huge success as well. (banners attached as PDF)

 

I had to start working on looking at different models that would be feasible in India. Advocate Vijay Kumar ( a visually challenged person, but lawyer by profession) also guided us in this approach. Titus, a famous law firm in New Delhi and a friend of Padmashree Vipin Buckshey also guided us. It was decided by the working group of the self-regulatory body to be set up that the body would be registered as a not for profit company.

 

2011 also saw the launch of India Vision Institute. The India Vision Institute (IVI) will be a vehicle for the development of an Indian mega-industry – a world leading, socially and economically important contribution to advanced vision correction and eye disease treatment. The aim of the IVI is to support research, education and technological development that will take India to the world platform for health care, vision correction and eye disease and blindness prevention.

 

In January 2012, the Indian entry-level optometry competency standard (IELOCS) document was finalized and made public. At this juncture, I would like to thank Prof. Peter Hendicot (University of Melbourne) who graciously agreed to review all our documents and guided us.  One more person that I need to thank at this juncture is Mr. Nilesh Thite, an educator, an optometrist with corporate experience and an optometrist passionate about the profession compiled the entire document together. My humble thanks to the entire team of experts who spent hours toiling together to get this document in order. Please note that all this was honorary work and all of them put their heart and soul into it for the sheer love of the profession. We often tend to refer to the west for everything progressive, but I am sure there are very few examples such as these that you will find, where educators and dean of Universities have spent time coming together, debating and compiling a document where there is no direct benefit for themselves, but to the entire profession.

 

Simultaneously, the working group of the self-regulatory body had come up with suggestions and a structure to register the body. It was decided that the body will be called Optometry council of India(OCI), that it would have 9 member board. It should be formed by the two main bodies, Indian Optometry Federation (IOF) and Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO).

During the IAPB conference in September 2012, OCI was officially launched. The board consisted of 3 representatives from ASCO and IOF each, one representative from health care sector, one representative from eye care NGO and one eminent citizen. At first the 6 member board was constituted, these 6 (IOF and ASCO representatives) decided on who the other 3 representatives (non optometry sector) would be.

In 2013, OCI had to work very hard on its website, registration policy, look at accreditation of school and colleges of optometry. Simultaneously 2013 also saw a growing interest in the government to regulate all the so called “Allied” professions. This job was seconded by the government to PHFI, which had a revamped force and was continuously in dialogue with IOF, ASCO and the newly formed OCI. 2013 also saw IOF, ASCO and leaders in optometry having multiple dialogues with the then joint secretary Ms. Sujaya Krishnan, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. She encouraged optometry a lot and supported all our efforts towards having a self regulated body. She also sent OCI a letter of support on hearing that OCI had formed and will start to register and regulate the profession.

 

Registration of optometrist in OCI commenced in January 2014. OCI registered both diploma holders and degree holders. The database was created and as of today OCI is proud to have close to 1300 registrants in the live register.

On the government side the profession has taken giant strides through dialogue and lobbying with the government. The word paramedical has been replaced by Allied and optometry recently got rid of the work “Allied” as well and was classified as “Health care profession” by the government.

 

A task force on the recommendation of OCI was created and has been closely working with the government in formatting a bachelors and masters curriculum. On 31st December 2015, the final draft of this curriculum which was also accepted by the National review committee was submitted to the Ministry (Ministry of Health and Family Welfare). This document also contains the job roles of different levels for optometrist as well.

 

The ministry will also adopt the OCI register when it announces the council. Before this, it will review our database and seek information regards mapping of optometrist all around the country as well. This is the main reason OCI has been pushing for optometrist to register, as government in the very near future will adopt the same register. The pace at which developments are occurring within the government is very fast and if things move as expected, then the Allied and Health Council bill is expected to be passed in 2016.

With the positive note I wish you all a very bright future ahead in the profession!!

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