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International Women’s Day – Training women eye health medical experts International Women’s Day – Training women eye health medical experts

International Women’s Day – Training women eye health medical experts

Over 55% of the world’s blind are women and The Fred Hollows Foundation strongly advocates for women’s health and equality around the world. We are dedicated to training more female eye health workers to provide comprehensive eye health services to women in need. This International Women’s Day we want to honour some of the incredible women who were trained by The Foundation

Dr Zhang: A doctor determined to serve her community

Dr Jun-hua Zhang is a serious learner. When the 42-year-old doctor underwent her three months of Fred Hollows Foundation-supported training at Hebei Eye Hospital, her single focus was eye surgery.
“I didn’t go shopping or sight-seeing. Whenever I had the time I would seek chances to learn at different eye divisions, such as paediatric ophthalmology, squint and fundus.”
At the Hebei Eye Hospital, Dr Zhang learned to perform cataract surgery and is committed to serving the residents of her home county Xingtang, about three hours’ drive from Beijing.
Xingtang is economically underdeveloped in comparison to major centres like Beijing. The county lacks a strong industrial base and its residents earn about one-fifth of the national income. It has an ageing population with 20 percent of its residents aged 50 years or more.
Developing a plan to cater for the medical needs of older people is important. However, the town does not have a doctor who can operate on cataract – a common disease for older people.
When people in Xingtang need cataract surgery, they either wait for a doctor to visit the town or they travel about 60km to the nearest hospital in Shi Jia-zhuang – an inconvenient journey for many older people.
Like many parts of China, elderly people in Xingtang are often left behind by family members seeking employment in the big cities.
Elderly people are left unattended and have to take care of themselves. They may not be aware of their eye problems, nor do they have the money to access treatment at a hospital, or a companion to accompany them.
“It would be much more convenient for people if the service was readily available at their doorstep,” Dr Zhang said.
Dr Zhang, who has dreamed of being a doctor since she was a student, is working hard to start helping more people to restore their sight.
She believes ophthalmology has a strong impact because patients are able to see the day after their surgery, providing great satisfaction to everyone involved.
“I am now very familiar with operation procedures and wish to operate on patients soon.”

Meet Nurse Yanut from Kampot in Cambodia

Yanut is a 22-year-old student from Kampot. Yanut was only six months old when she was orphaned.  She was raised by her grandmother.  Although they struggled to survive and lived far from school, Yanut’s grandmother was determined that her grand-daughter would receive an education.  

Yanut did her best to help her grandmother by selling cakes after school. From primary school onwards, Yanut excelled in her studies and earned a scholarship in general nursing.

“I really wanted to stop my study after primary school because I felt so sorry for my grandmother, but she refused to let me give up school. She wanted me to study and get a good education,” Yanut said with tears in her eyes.

“When I graduated from general nursing, I wanted to pursue refractionist nursing, but I didn’t know how until my friend told me about The Fred Hollows Foundation scholarship,” she said.

Yanut applied for the scholarship and when her application was successful, she and her grandmother were surprised and elated. “I was so keen to study this course and my grandmother is so proud of me,” she said. “The course is very well established and structured both academically and professionally. I have used my time practicing with many patients in the community.”

Yanut now understands how important good sight is to quality of life. “I’ve discovered a new way to help people who are affected by eye problems, especially in my community. I am passionate about helping people and eye health is a perfect fit for me.”
Meet Nurse Hazel in the Philippines

Hazel Ladroma used to be frustrated with the country’s eye health system in her early years as a nurse. Now, she’s an eye health champion working hard to improve the quality of eye healthcare in her province. For the past 10 years, Hazel has been the Department of Education’s nurse-in-charge for the province of Surigao del Norte, working with schools in various health initiatives, including eye health programs.

Having suffered from poor vision in high school, Hazel knows how difficult it is to study when you can’t see clearly. Her passion is to help students, especially those who could miss out on opportunities because of vision impairment. “I was frustrated with the state of our eye health services. The problem is, when we identify students with eye problems, we don’t know where to refer them.

In the province, we don’t have an established eye health facility as all optometrists and ophthalmologists are in private practice, leaving many of our students untreated. We constantly lobbied to local government units to provide eyeglasses to students, but not all of them were responsive. Over the years, our enthusiasm for eye health wavered due to lack of support,” Hazel said.

Things started to change in 2016 when The Fred Hollows Foundation started the Community Eye Health Program (CEHP) in Surigao Del Norte. The program brings different groups from the government and private sectors together to help end avoidable blindness and improve the quality of eye care in the province.

With doctors and nurses from the private and public health systems working collaboratively with teachers, social workers, government and corporate donors, Hazel regained her enthusiasm as she makes her own contribution as a nurse in the Department of Education.
“With all the support they provide, who wouldn’t want to work with The Fred Hollows Foundation? With their help, we were able to conduct eye screening even to island schools rarely reached by school nurses.”

“I am happy just by seeing students being examined by an optometrist. The majority of these students have never even visited an eye clinic. That feeling you get when you distribute eyeglasses to students and they’re wearing it – that keeps me going. I can’t make this possible without the assistance of all the schools, nurses, and teachers that we trained,” Hazel said.