Irish optometry students test skills in Bulgaria

Residents of a small Bulgarian town braved sub-zero temperatures for a rare opportunity to have their eyes checked by Irish optometry students

18 Jan 2017 by Selina Powell

Final-year Irish optometry students had the chance to test their skills during a trip to Bulgaria in January.

A team from the Dublin Institute of Technology’s (DIT) Department of Optometry worked with a group of Bulgarian optometry students, academics and an ophthalmologist to screen residents in the town of Sapareva Banya.

The town is about 80 kilometres south of the Bulgarian capital, Sofia.

A DIT lecturer who attended the trip, Claire McDonnell, told OT  that the group managed to screen and test about 300 residents, including the town’s mayor.

Most of those screened were children, some of whom braved freezing temperatures to go for an eye check.

Ms McDonnell said the two final-year optometry students who took part in the trip gained an enormous amount of experience during the trip.

“They thought it was very beneficial,” she emphasised.

One of the main challenges was testing people who often spoke little English, Ms McDonnell noted.

“By the end of the trip, the students could count to nine in Bulgarian because we were testing them with numbers,” she added.

The Bulgarian team included two Sofia University faculty members and was led by the Bulgarian Association of Optometrists president, Mila Dragomirova.

It was hoped that the Bulgarian team would be able to make a visit to Ireland in the future.

The DIT group was sponsored by the Specsavers’ Republic of Ireland branches.

Image credit: Claire McDonnell

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