Optometrist Dr. Marie-France Duguay and Optician Caroline Anderson flew to Senegal on November 3. The previous mission, during which two residents in the optometry community from the Université de Montréal School of Optometry provided coaching, training and technical follow-up, dates back to January 2023. Despite the short duration of their stay, our volunteers were able to make their mark and make a difference for the staff of the Saint-Louis Blindness Prevention and Control Program (PPLC).
Mission background and objectives
The Saint-Louis Program for the Prevention and Fight against Blindness (PPFB) in Senegal began in January 2019 and has since been funded by the Ministère des Relations internationales et de la Francophonie of Quebec (MRIF). The PPFB is implemented in collaboration with and in support of the Association Saint-Louisienne pour la Vue (ASV) and aims to support the Saint-Louis community ophthalmology center designed to offer accessible eye examinations and ophthalmological consultations.
As a follow-up to the mission carried out in January 2023, Dr. Marie-France Duguay and Ms. Caroline Anderson were mandated to support the team at the Saint-Louis Community Ophthalmology Center in the technical implementation of the PPFB. In addition to offering advice and support in their day-to-day screening work (in clinics and during mobile clinics), their mission was to help install and appropriately use the equipment provided. Dr. Duguay and Ms. Anderson shared their findings and recommendations for the team and the partner to improve program sustainability.
Achievements in the field:
As soon as they arrived in the country, our two volunteers received a warm welcome from our partners and friends at ASV. Having received two volunteers a few months earlier, they were highly motivated to continue training with Dr. Duguay and Ms. Anderson.
Our two trainers had a sizeable mandate since they had to complete their field mission in less than seven days in Saint-Louis if we subtract the two days of travel to and from the site. It was a challenge they met brilliantly, thanks to their professionalism, experience, preparedness and resourcefulness. "We'd like to thank all the Quebec trainers who came to the community center before us and laid a solid theoretical foundation for continuity. It is based on their clinical data and recommendations that we have established our seven-day continuing education course," they say.
They brought several donations to the ASV from IRIS Mundial in Canada, including a visiometer, a new autorefractometer and several frames. They took the opportunity to provide practical and theoretical training on the equipment provided, both in opticianry and optometry, enabling specific tools to be updated and adapted to the reality of our partners in the field.
One of the objectives of IRIS Mundial and its partners is to facilitate access to vision care for all at social rates. For this reason, mobile clinics are an essential component of the program, enabling us to reach out to people in remote communities and nearby schools. As a result, Marie-France and Caroline had the opportunity to participate in two mobile clinics with ASV team members during their mission. They travelled over 70 km from Saint-Louis to Kassak Nord, where over 80 patients were waiting for them to receive primary eye care. Of these patients, 32 were referred to the center for a thorough examination, and 10 were diagnosed with cataracts. During their mobile clinic at Djougop Elementary School, 55 children were examined, and 12 were referred to the community eye center. "I was surprised by the number of children's visual health pathologies in the region. Out of 55 children examined during our school clinic, 3 suffered from visual disabilities (2 cases of nystagmus and 1 case of oculocutaneous albinism). ASV is already very active in its screening activities, and I'm very happy to see that the clinic is autonomous in this respect", testified Dr. Duguay, confirming the needs in the field and the importance of the program!
After 10 days of intensive work, our two volunteers returned to Canada with their heads full of memories and a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. "We had a very receptive and motivated team. It's inspiring for trainers," they conclude.
Thank you to our trainers and partners in Senegal for your invaluable collaboration and participation.
The IRIS Mundial team
Ousmane Kamara, Optician at ASV:
"We spent a pleasant week with Marie-France and Caroline. Thank you very much. The stay was fruitful. We received master classes from them. It was a very good stay, and many thanks to the whole team. Many thanks again.
Alioune Fall, PPLC Saint-Louis Coordinator at ASV:
"We spent a very fruitful and instructive week with the volunteers. The program, designed to ensure the smooth running of activities, was well executed. The staff really appreciated the training activities in the afternoons, and their thirst for knowledge outweighed the fatigue of long working days. Special mention to Marie France and Caroline. Our thanks to the entire IRIS team for the quality of their collaboration. Best wishes to all friends of IRIS".