Optometrist and reader at Aston University, Dr Shehzad Naroo (pictured), was elected president of the International Association of Contact Lens Educators (IACLE) in 2011. He speaks to OT about the association’s mission as it enters its 40th year
When was the IACLE established and why?
IACLE was founded in 1979 as a mainly European organisation of contact lens educators. The association has had a global structure since 1991 with a large focus on emerging contact lens markets. Its aim is to increase the number of qualified contact lens educators worldwide and improve the quality of contact lens teaching they provide.
I joined IACLE in 2002, taking its fellowship exams at the end of that same year. I joined the association because of the portfolio of resources that it offers – it has a wealth of educational and information resources available to educators and those involved in contact lens education. Being a member also provides me with a network of support from professionals in the same field of work.
I became involved in the executive side of the organisation in 2007, initially as vice president, taking over from Des Fonn, and then becoming president in 2011, taking over from Debbie Sweeny.
“IACLE is about the delivery of good contact lens education. If you are teaching students about contact lenses and are serious about the subject, then you should be a member of IACLE”
How will the association be celebrating its 40th anniversary?
We are hosting four large events in order to mark IACLE’s 40th anniversary throughout this year. These will be complemented by a series of smaller celebratory events around the world.
IACLE splits is global activity into three regions: the Americas, Asia Pacific, and Europe, Africa and the Middle East. We will be holding a large celebratory event in each of our regions, with two being hosted in the Americas – during the joint American Academy of Optometry and the World Congress of Optometry in Florida in October, and at the FEDOPTO Congress in Colombia in August.
In Europe we will be celebrating at the British Contact Lens Association’s Clinical Conference and Exhibition in Manchester in May, and in Asia Pacific, we will celebrate at the Asia Pacific Optometric Congress in the Philippines in June.
At each of these large events, we will have a booth in the exhibition area and will be encouraging members and delegates to come and meet and talk to us – they will be able to share their thoughts on a timeline wall of IACLE milestones. We also hope to secure podium time at these events, during which we will talk about the achievements of IACLE, as well as what we hope to achieve next. We will also be honouring some of our key pioneers from the early days.
In the last 40 years, what key achievements has IACLE marked?
There have been so many, it is hard to isolate a few. The mission of IACLE is that, if you are a patient and are having contact lenses fitted anywhere in the world, the practitioner in front of you will have been trained by a member of IACLE and therefore the level of education that they will have received will be on par and will lead to successful contact lens wear.
IACLE began 40 years ago with just 16 founding members and has since brought together 2500 members in 91 countries, educating an estimated 170,000 students. In turn, that knowledge has been instrumental in fitting around 250 million contact lens wearers worldwide, making the impact of IACLE exponential.
“If you are teaching students about contact lenses and are serious about the subject, then you should be a member of IACLE”
What are the IACLE’s goals for the future?
The way that we learn and teach has changed greatly over the last 40 years and with evolving technology it is changing still. When IACLE began producing education resources 35 years ago, these were originally in the format of booklets. These were gradually replaced with 35mm slides and now this is all electronic. Our flagship resource – the new IACLE contact lens course – is one of many available online for members to download.
We are currently thinking about what the next delivery mechanism for these resources will be – narrated lectures, flipped learning and seminar support are avenues of exploration.
What would you say to encourage UK educators to join the IACLE?
IACLE is about the delivery of good contact lens education. If you are teaching students about contact lenses and are serious about the subject, then you should be a member of IACLE. The information that is available to you, and the network of other educators that it puts you in touch with, is immense. Our membership consists of opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists. Of course, there are other organisations that offer education, but what IACLE offers is specific to contact lens teaching and we are the only organisation that does what we do.