Rowena Fuller is an optometrist at Specsavers Ballarat, She has recently participated in our virtual outreach sessions in Fiji in partnership with The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ.

When I first had the opportunity to take part in the Specsavers Outreach Program in Fiji in 2018, it was moving to see how hard the students worked in such a short amount of time in order to learn to provide eye care to the remote communities of the Pacific Islands.

The program, run in partnership with The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ and Specsavers, aims to teach local nurses and professionals the skills to provide vision care to their individual communities, reducing the reliance on outsourced outreach programs and ophthalmology care. While in past years we aid by supervising clinics and acting as clinical teachers, this year provided a series of case presentations in a more interactive lecture-style format.

While 2020 has thrown us some curveballs, I was so appreciative to see the program was still running this year (albeit in a different fashion!), because the communities of the Pacific Islands are now more isolated from eyecare than ever before. This makes it evident that the type of educational program run by the Pacific Eye Institute is such an incredibly valuable tool and integral to the future of eye care within these regions.

I really enjoyed the experience of presenting to the students and sharing similar cases they had experienced in their clinic recently.

It was great to interact with people sharing the same passion for eyecare as me and feel that an hour of my time could (hopefully!) help them to grow as practitioners and provide some tips into how to work within their local clinics.

It was fantastic to strengthen the bond I formed with the people of Fiji and the Pacific Eye Institute that I started on my trip two years ago. I certainly hope it won’t be my last interaction with the dedicated team of the PEI and look forwards to the possibility of future outreach work.

For any early (or later!) career optometrists contemplating involvement with The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ, Specsavers, or any outreach programs, I would encourage you to join in. A small amount of time donated by you can make the world of difference to someone else!