EVOLUTION OF OPTOMETRY IN BOTSWANA: OPTOM BOAGO MODIITSANE
My desire to deal with conditions that affect the human eye stared in 1988 when I was doing my Tirelo Sechana (National Service) in Tshane. While there, I used to see eye care personnel coming all the way from Lobatse and Gaborone coming to do outreach at Hukuntsi Primary Hospital and I told myself that one day I will have to be counted as one of eyecare professionals in Botswana.
During our times, career guidance was not as developed as it is today, we had to do some research on our own regarding careers. So, after some research I settled for Optometry. Government had offered me scholarship to do dentistry but I chose to stick to my first choice-Optometry. After completing my part one BSc at University of Botswana, I was admitted at the University of Auckland in New Zealand to pursue Bachelor of Optometry. After completing, I come back home as the first Motswana to graduate as an Optometrist. I have also attained a Degree of Master of Public Health with University of Liverpool in the UK.
On my return home in 1996 I found a group dedicated professionals, most of whom were working in the private sector. Only the government funded mission hospital in Mochudi (Deborah Retief Memorial Hospital, DRM) offered ophthalmic services which included refraction services. It was therefore befitting that in 1997 a group of optometrists, opticians and owners of “optical practice” (as they were called then) gathered at DRM to establish an association called Botswana Optical Association. One of the aims of this association was to advance the interests of both the registered Health Professionals (Optometrists and Opticians) as well as those of the owners of “optical outlets” who were mainly business people who did not have a health professions qualification.
In 2007, Botswana Optical Association collaborated with other Eye Care Health Professions including Ophthalmologists and Ophthalmic Nurses to further advance ophthalmic issues in Botswana. This collaboration resulted in the formation of a body called Botswana Eye Care Providers Society whose some of objectives were:
With time the number of optometrists and opticians increased in Botswana. That then necessitated a review of the association membership and objectives. This review resulted in the association being a purely professional association whose members are optometrists and opticians registered with the Botswana Health Professions Council. I was privileged to have taken part in this transformation. The name Botswana Optical Association was maintained for a while but was later changed to Botswana Optometrists Association.
The existence of this formal structure allowed for the voice of optometry to be heard in Government, business sector and more importantly within the health regulation corridors. In 2001 the Association presented my name to the Minster of Health for appointment to the Botswana Health Professions Council [BHPC]. I served in different capacities at BPHC, the ultimate service being that of the chairman of Council. This has helped in the advancement of formulating and adopting the scope of practice for Optometry in Botswana.
Finally, I want to thank all fellow optometrists who have given me opportunity to serve them and help advance optometry to the state in which it is in Botswana. There is a lot of room for improvement especially in helping optometry in Botswana collaborate with other optometry associations worldwide in area of professional development.