The Singapore Optometric Association helps Lao PDR to join the international optometry community and pledges its monetary support to facilitate the growth of the industry as part of the ASEAN Optometric Conference
The First ASEAN Optometric Conference was initiated in 2007 by the Association of Malaysian Optometrists (AMO) under the vision and leadership of Dr Chung Kah Meng and his committee member in Melaka. The mission of the conference was to promote the optometric profession in ASEAN and to encourage members to achieve the highest standard of optometric practice.
Subsequent ASEAN Optometric Conferences from 2008 -2012 continued to be organised by the AMO and were held in Malaysia (alternating between Petaling Jaya and Kuala Lumpur) every 2 years. On the 13-14th November 2014, The 5th ASEAN Optometric Conference was held for the first time in Singapore, hosted by the Singapore Optometric Association (SOA).
Following the successful conclusion of the 5th ASEAN Optometric Conference, and in collaboration with members of ASEAN, the SOA has confirmed that part of the proceeds from the 5th ASEAN Optometric Conference has been pledged towards the progress of optometric education in ASEAN.
Members of the ASEAN countries have agreed that optometric education is the immediate need for the ASEAN region. Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) was selected as the beneficiary as there are no optometrists in the country of 6.7m people. The eye care needs of the nation is currently served by 25 ophthalmologists, 10 refractionists and 150 ophthalmic nurses.
4 registered nurses from Lao PDR have been selected to receive this scholarship. They have begun their 1 year intensive optometry course, which is delivered at Ramkhamhaeng University, Thailand. The course follows the standards of the World Council of Optometry Global, between level 1 and level 2.
The curriculum covers refraction, diagnosis of common eye diseases and dispensing skills such as edging and fitting of lenses into spectacle frames. In addition to the scholarship fund, the tuition fees are partially subsidized by Ramkhamhaeng University. Upon the completion of the course, the scholars will return to Laos to practise.
The program will be overseen from experts from the Faculty of Optometry at Ramkhamhaeng University. Dr.Danai, Dean of Faculty of Optometry at Ramkhamhaeng University, has expressed confidence that the education in optometry will be beneficial to countless people in Laos and further development of optometry in the region. Dr.Danai said, “The success of the program will energized development of optometric education and training for essential manpower for vision care in Laos.”
Representatives of Singapore, Thailand and Lao formalized the details of the scholarship on the 8th September 2015, in Beijing. The next conference (joint-named as the 6 Conference) will be held in November 2016, in Manila, and will be hosted by the Integrated Philippine Association of Optometry (IPAO)