Sophie-Andrée Duchesne-Cadieux and Dr. Francine Lavallée, Optometrist
The clinic and the team
I was impressed and very proud when I visited the new clinic built for the IRIS Mundial PPFB in St-Louis. This programme aims to give access to eye exams, eye glasses and even ocular surgeries to the most disadvantaged
The team in place works very hard to offer quality service care to the population I met welcoming, dedicated and motivated people who take the mission of the program very seriously. More than one thousand patients have already received services from the programme.
It is difficult for us, having access to free ophthalmologic care, to imagine that people in Senegal have to pay for surgery to correct blindness caused by cataract for example. Unfortunately, this is the case. And there is only one ophthalmologist for a population of about one billion! Result: thousands of people have a visual impairment or are blind.
In the field
During my training mission, I also accompanied the team on a visual screening day in a community far from the city. More than 125 patients were registered: the day wasn’t going to be easy! When the consultations started, I could see how real and how enormous the needs are. Elderly patients were seen first (this is an integral part of Senegalese culture): several couldn’t see, most of them were blind in at least one eye. Some may improve their condition with glasses or surgery. We also examined several young children, whose lives started badly because of serious and disabling eye diseases. In view of the fact that visual care has not been accessible for this population, I realized that this day was one of the only opportunities for these parents to hope for a better future for their child.
I was part of the IRIS Mundial mission of November 2018 in Senegal with 30 Canadian volunteers. In November 2019, I went back, but this time, as a trainer with the talented Francine Lavallée, Optometrist.
Our Senegalese colleagues and friends and I were very happy to see each other again! We were taken excellent care of from the moment we set foot in the country. This was very reassuring. We had had a good first impression and the second was just as good.
The training of the optician focused chiefly on theory to begin with but soon became more practical. With only a few months training behind him, our optician counterpart felt the need to improve his practical skills. I quickly realised that measuring for eye glasses and complete analysis were his weaknesses. We worked very hard on these aspects that, for me, are the basis of optic work and success!
I will end my testimony quoting Ousmane Kamara, Senegalese optician: “Before you came, I felt sick. Now, I really feel you came to cure me, I feel better. Thank you!”