Ghana-Wales Vision Pact: celebrating optometry through collaboration 

A team of optometrists and researchers from Cardiff University travelled to the University of Cape Coast in Ghana to participate in events aimed at building collaboration, priority setting in research, and inspiring future professionals

Dr Louise Terry and Dry Enyam Morny
Department of Optometry & Vision Science, University of Cape Coast in Ghana
Optometrists and researchers from Cardiff University and the University of Cape Coast in Ghana came together during World Optometry Week to share experiences, promote optometry as a career, and identify areas for future research.

The Ghana-Wales Vision Pact – Advancing and Promoting Eyecare and Research in Ghana received £47k from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), delivered through the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales. The grant enabled a team of five optometrists and researchers from Cardiff University to travel to the University of Cape Coast (UCC) for six days and deliver two events.

Dr Louise Terry, lecturer and optometrist at the School of Optometry and Vision Sciences at Cardiff University, explained that the Ghana-Wales Vision Pact marks the 10-year milestone of a collaboration between the universities.

“Over the past decade, Cardiff University and UCC have collaborated extensively in teaching, research, and community services focusing on glaucoma, low vision, and refractive errors,” she told OT.

Over the six-day visit, the partners came together for review workshops, a World Optometry Day event, and a research symposium.

Reflecting on the Global Challenges Research funding, Terry shared: “This has been such a fantastic opportunity for us to sit down with our collaborators at UCC, find out more about their optometry programme (which is a six-year Doctor of Optometry), and identify research areas for further exploration together.”

Reviewing achievements of a close collaboration

The collaborators have previously secured funding for other projects, including £37k from a previous round of GCRF funding, €48k (£41k) from ERASMUS+, and £14k from the Wales Africa Grant Scheme. Terry noted that these resulted in the upskilling of UCC staff, delivering continuing professional development to more than 200 optometrists in Ghana, and establishing a low vision clinic for service delivery and training.

UCC staff have also obtained PhDs and MScs in Clinical Optometry from Cardiff, while several staff and students have participated in exchange visits.

During the recent visit, a two-day review workshop was held to assess achievements and impact of the partnership’s previous collaborations, and to enable strategic planning for further projects between the institutions in teaching and research.

Terry was joined by a multidisciplinary team of researchers made up of: Professor Andrew Quantock, director of research and biophysicist, Dr Melissa Wright, postdoctoral researcher and neuroscientist, Vera Silva, postdoctoral researcher, PhD student and optometrist, and Katherine Ward, PhD student and optometrist.

Terry shared: “The review workshops have been an excellent platform for group discussion, sparking project ideas, and prioritising which areas to move forward with.”

Workshops began with presentations outlining the fields of interest of the members of each faculty in both institutions.

“From this, we were able to match researchers at each institution who may have similar interests and may wish to collaborate on projects in those fields,” Terry said. “Of particular interest from the discussions that took place were glaucoma, myopia management, and eye movements, and we will move forward with these discussions on our return to the UK.”

Outreach and inspiring the next generation

The Cardiff team also attended a World Optometry Day showcase event and exhibition for approximately 150 local schoolchildren, to share their experiences as scientists and optometrists.

Exhibition stalls included information about optometry as a profession, along with optometric education, information on the importance of good eye health, non-governmental organisations for supporting those with sight loss, as well as activities to “enthuse students about optometry,” Terry shared.

“Speaking with children and community groups about promoting good eye health and optometry as a career has been so rewarding,” Terry shared. She added: “We hope this event will start discussions around optometry as a career, but also promote the work of optometrists to the community and highlight the need for regular eye examinations.”

A group of school children with the model eye they created for a competition as part of World Optometry Day celebrations
Department of Optometry & Vision Science, University of Cape Coast in Ghana
A group of school children with the model eye they created for a competition as part of World Optometry Day celebrations

Highlighting the importance of community eye care

The event was followed by a symposium showcasing the importance of eye care in the community, drawing on the experience of the Cardiff team, ranging from evolving eye care needs, the Wales General Ophthalmic Services contract reform, and the potential of research in vision science.

The symposium also saw presentations on topics including The Evolution of Optometry in Ghana – Present Status and Future Prospects, and Ghana Health Service Initiatives for Building a Robust Optometric Workforce towards Universal Health Coverage.

The Cardiff team also acquired donations made by optical suppliers and transported these to UCC to be used in outreach clinics across Ghana. Donations included eye drops, fluorescein strips, minims, lid hygiene products, and gloves.

Reflecting on the experience, Terry told OT: “This trip has been such an amazing opportunity to meet with our collaborators at UCC and dedicate the time to properly explore research avenues and potential teaching collaborations – something you just don’t get with a Zoom call.”

Terry described feeling “privileged” to have had the opportunity to speak with students about optometry and eye health, adding: “we hope this event may have even inspired some of them to become optometrists themselves.”

“Everyone in Ghana has been so welcoming during our stay, we’ve experienced some amazing food and culture, and met a lot of inspirational people who we look forward to working with closely in the coming years,” she concluded.

Dr Louise Terry, along with Dr Enyam Morny, head of department, Optometry and Vision Science and the team at UCC, extended thanks to sponsors who donated optical supplies for community outreach; Bondeye Optical, Mid-Optic Limited, Scope Eyecare, Three Sixty Optical Ltd, and Thea Pharmaceuticals.