– Dr Cummings
By Sharmain Cornette
The University of Guyana, Turkeyen Campus, is poised to break phenomenal ground with the introduction of a Bachelor of Science Degree in Optometry.
This disclosure was made by Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Dr Emanuel Cummings, during an exclusive interview with this newspaper. He revealed that the programme which is scheduled to commence in September is the first ever to be offered in the Caribbean.
Support for this promising initiative has been forthcoming from agencies the likes of Guyana Eye Care and the Caribbean Society for the Blind, Dr Cummings stated. He added “lots of funding will be coming from these organisations to help with infrastructure in terms of new classroom spaces, a laboratory for optometry and even new offices to support the programme.”
The new programme is currently being perused by the University’s Academic Board and is expected to be approved shortly, according to Dr Cummings. Once approved, the Optometry programme will be advertised along with the regular university pursuits. And the applicants for this programme will be drawn from the same pool as those who pursue courses in the Faculty of Health Sciences, Dr Cummings said.
This programme, the Dean noted, is coming at a time when a lot of emphasis is being placed on eye care. Over the past few years, Government through its collaboration with the Cuban government had commenced Mission Miracle which facilitated the screening of the eyes of more than 90,000 Guyanese over a two-year period. A total of 6,000 were identified for eye surgery in Cuba.
However, Government in its quest to afford citizens a more equitable health service had decided to construct a state-of-the-art Ophthalmology Centre at Port Mourant, Berbice. The national facility was commissioned last July.
More than 11,000 patients have been able to access the service of the Centre as at the end of last year. Of those seen, about 989 received corrective surgery for various eye problems including cataract. Just under 170 cases of cataract were operated on, according to Minister within the Health Ministry, Dr Bheri Ramsaran.
The national facility is currently manned by about 28 staffers including specialist Cuban doctors who are filling the gap until local doctors are able to complete training in the area of eye care. And since it is anticipated that a maximum of 10,000 operations could be possible in a single year, Dr Ramsaran said that there is the likelihood that Guyana will lend its capacity to other Caricom countries and Guyanese in the Diaspora.
With the advent of the centre, Dr Cummings said that “we have decided to train persons in optometry. These optometrists, once graduated will be able to serve in the field of optometry throughout the length and breadth of Guyana. They will be able to address quite a lot of cases, primarily those that would have been previously detected by ophthalmology.”
In essence, the programme will serve to add a new line of professionals to the Ministry of Health’s delivery of health care. And there is not the likelihood that there will be a shortage of applicants for this programme, as according to Dr Cummings, persons from the Caribbean are expected to apply among other students who are likely to transfer from other programmes to that of Optometry.
The Faculty, Dr Cummings said, is indeed excited to be a part of the venture which comes as part of Government’s policy to improve the health care system.
The Health Sciences Faculty has been working very closely with the Health Ministry, Dr Cummings explained, to design the programme so that it coincides with Government’s plan. He acknowledged that the onus is currently on the Faculty to help train some of the requisite health professionals to staff the several health care facilities that have been built across the country.
And even as training progresses, Dr Cummings is optimistic that the university will gain from significant assistance in terms of infrastructural upgrades.
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