High Asia Herald Report
Islamabad: The office-bearers of the Pakistan Optometry and Vision Sciences Association (POVSA) and Pakistan Optometric Society (POS) have demanded a separate regulatory body for the profession to deal with this cadre.
They have proposed the nomenclature of the proposed body as Pakistan Optometry and Vision Sciences Council.
In a joint statement the POS Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa President Hanifur Rahman Bangash, Vice-President Ajmal Khan, Finance Secretary Asadullah and POVSA spokesperson Dr Sayeed Tajik urged the government to notify the formation of the Council.
The draft of the Council’s charter has already been approved by the National Committee for Eye Health, they informed.
They also demanded the lifting of a ban imposed by the Higher Education Commission on the undergraduate course of optometry with the change of its nomenclature to Doctor of Optometry.
Optometry, according to the World Council of Optometry (WCO), is a healthcare profession that is separate from ophthalmology.
Although an emerging profession in Pakistan, it is taught as an essential discipline of eye care in all developed and most developing countries, they said.
Talking to The High Asia Herald, Dr Tajik said that there are certain eye diseases which can only be prevented through optometry. For instance, myopia (short-sightedness) is a major global issue which will be affecting 50% of the human population by 2050. It can only be treated and prevented through optometry, he said.
Although optometry goes hand in hand with ophthalmology in the treatment of visual disorders, the former is a separate vision care speciality that is concerned with the health of the eyes, the visual system, and related structures.
The role of optometrists in healthcare is crucial. They can detect, diagnose, manage and co-manage a myriad of eye diseases and related systemic disorders; ranging from near-sightedness to brain tumours. For instance, a patient without any signs of a serious life-threatening disorder, such as leukaemia, may be suspected by an optometrist during an eye examination.
Untreated refractive errors are a leading cause of reversible blindness in Pakistan which optometrists can manage. They can take care of the eyes of patients with diabetes, hypertension and many other diseases and prevent sight-threatening complications.
They deal with vision screening, orthoptics and vision training, counselling of patients with partial sight, colour blindness and hereditary vision defects, designing and fitting of spectacles, contact lens and low vision aids and can detect, diagnose and manage/ co-manage a variety of eye diseases and related systemic disorders.
About the scope of the profession in Pakistan, Dr Tajik said: “It has tremendous job opportunities in public and private sector hospitals and pharmaceutical companies”.
Optometrists can work as postsecondary teachers, occupational/industrial safety programmes, consultants in the eye care industry or do research in areas of ophthalmic and visual sciences. Optometrists can also set up their own private clinics and work independently. They can also choose a career in sports vision, public health and government service or community health centres.
Students who wish to become an optometrist must complete a minimum of four to five years of university degree and rigorous training in a wider range of ocular and visual disorders, which is a minimum requirement to pursue a career as an optometrist.
They can further their expertise in multiple subspecialties and choose to complete a postgraduate university programme or clinical fellowships from the USA and UK.
About the institutes and their courses, Dr Tajik there are a number of premier health sciences institutes that offer graduate (BS or OD) and post-graduate degrees (MS/MPhil) including the King Edward Medical University, Lahore; Khyber Medical University, Peshawar; the University of Lahore, The University of Faisalabad, The Superior University, Lahore; FMH Institute of Allied Health Sciences, Lahore; Rawalpindi Medical University are a few to name.