Fred Hollows believed in empowering people. That’s why we invest in training a range of people from community health workers to surgeons. Building local skills has always been, and will always be, at the heart of our work.
Fred's Legacy: teaching the teachers
Fred’s passion for teaching
Fred was an advocate of hands-on learning. He firmly believed there should always be three people in a room: a teacher, a student and a patient. Whether it was in an operating theatre in Sydney or in Hanoi, Fred took great delight in seeing the moment of understanding in his students’ eyes.
One of the great joys of my life is having been part of the training of Sanduk Ruit and his training others.
- Fred Hollows
Fred could always see the bigger picture. He knew that his students would eventually become teachers themselves too. While a country might only have one ophthalmologist, soon enough it could have two, then ten.
Fred's last lesson: training over 300 eye specialists in Vietnam
Despite being very ill with cancer, Fred discharged himself from hospital in July 1992 to fly to Hanoi. There he wanted to fulfil his promise to train over 300 Vietnamese eye specialists in modern eye surgery techniques.
At that time only 1,000 cataract operations using intraocular lenses were performed each year in Vietnam. Students packed the operating theatre as Fred, who was too ill to perform the surgeries himself then, instructed his students with his usual enthusiasm, dedication and demand for perfection.
Today, these former students are continuing his work and leading the way in ophthalmology in Vietnam. That figure of 1,000 cataract operations has now multiplied to over 160,000 each year throughout the globe – all thanks to what Fred started.
Building a local health force
No matter where we work, our aim is to build local skills and public health capacity at every level. We train surgeons, doctors, nurses, healthcare and community workers to recognise, refer and treat eye problems.
What we’re doing is revolutionary, something big health organisations aren’t doing. They send eye doctors. What we are doing is giving these people the chance to help themselves. We are giving them independence.
- Fred Hollows
Doorstep diagnosis: the importance of community healthworkers
Community health workers are a vital link between patients and eye health services.
Trained by The Foundation, they visit communities, diagnosing a range of medical conditions and referring people to medical clinics, hospitals and doctors. Initial consultations like these are essential, because potentially damaging eye health issues are identified before they become critical.
In Kenya, these community health workers distribute antibiotics to prevent trachoma.
In Ethiopia, we train teachers who educate their students on how to prevent the spread of trachoma, such as washing their face to keep the disease at bay.
In Australia, health workers speak the local language of remote Indigenous communities. This dramatically increases the number of people who come for eye examinations and treatment.
Investing in people
As part of The Foundation’s work, we help train ophthalmologists so there are more specialists ready to tackle the many millions of cases of avoidable blindness. Dr Ciku Mathenge and Dr Ouk Soleaphy are two female surgeons trained by the Fred Hollows Foundation who are working tirelessly to improve eye health systems in their countries while helping to overcome gender barriers.
Empowering young ophthalmologists is very important to us, as it ties in directly with what Fred believed: train one surgeon and they’ll train hundreds more.
A look at our results from 2018:
- Globally, we trained over 57,074 people, including 142 eye surgeons, 1,108 clinic support staff, 48,035 community health workers and 7,789 teachers.
- In Cambodia, 777,192 school children received eye care health education
- In Pakistan, we provided 12,532 eye operations and treatments
- In Vietnam, 10,574 pairs of glasses distributed
Investing in equipment and technology
While training is paramount, part of our work is also looking at a country’s infrastructure needs. This includes:
- building and upgrading eye health facilities;
- ensuring vital equipment and technology is in place, or even looking more broadly at national health systems;
- educating community leaders to establishing village health centres;
- building regional hospitals;
- creating national ophthalmological networks
All the work we do has one aim: to help build an independent and sustainable system of eye health worldwide.
A snapshot of our 2018 investment into equipment and technology:
- In Africa, we equipped 281 medical facilities
- In Myanmar, we equipped 320 medical facilities
- In Pakistan, we equipped 33 medical facilities and 276 schools
A look at our global results from 2018:
- 929,106 eye operations and treatments performed
- 24M+ people treated with antibiotics for trachoma
- 59,207 people trained, including surgeons, nurses, community health workers and teachers
- 57,074 surgeons, nurses, community health workers and teachers trained
- 9 medical facilities built, renovated or equipped
- 1,017 medical facilities, training centres and schools equipped
- 2.4M+ school children and community members educated in eye health and sanitation
- $4.5 million worth of equipment supplied
- 120 medical facilities renovated or equipped
- Timor Leste: $212,594 of eye health equipment supplied