Three Ghanaian students of optometry have been honored with the William C. Ezell Fellowships.
They are Heiz Otchere, Afua Oteng Asare and Eugen Appenteng Osae.
They were bestowed the honor at the joint conference of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and Third World Congress of Optometry for (WCO) held in Orlando Florida.
The American Academy of Optometry Foundation (AAOF) has since 1949 offered the Ezell Fellowships to encourage talented persons to pursue full-time careers in optometric research and education in a school or college of optometry.
The fellowships provide support to graduate students enrolled in a full-time program of study and training in vision-related research that leads to a Master’s or Ph.D. degree.
Named after Dr. William C. Ezell, the founder of the AAOF, fellowships are for one year and the current amount of the award is $8,000. Each student also receives travel grants – $750 – to the annual meetings of the American Academy of Optometry and the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO).
The American Academy of Optometry Foundation has awarded over 400 Fellowships to students pursuing graduate studies.
Among the list of former Ezell Fellows are over 20 deans and presidents of optometric schools and colleges, over 130 faculty members and over 160 Fellows of the American Academy of Optometry, including three of its presidents.
Dr. Osae received the Danne Ventura – Essilor Ezell Fellow. According to Myjoyonline, he is the first Ghanaian to pick this award.
A clinician-scientist and a product of KNUST and a former research fellow of the Ocular Surface Group at the University of Cologne, Germany, Dr. Osae’s work previously earned him the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology Developing Country Eye Researcher Fellowship and more recently the American Academy of Optometry Foundation’s Joseph T. Barr Early Career Cornea and Contact Lens Research Award.
Currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Houston, College of Optometry, Houston, Texas, USA, he hopes his research will bring hope to those who suffer Meibomian gland dysfunction and the associated dry eye disease, particularly among specialized groups of people living with autoimmune disorders and metabolic syndrome.
Dr. Heinz Otchere received the American Academy of Optometry Foundation’s Robert Mandell Ezell Club Fellow 2019, the first Ghanaian to attain that feat. Myjoyonline reports that he becomes the seventh awardee from the School of Optometry and Vision Science, University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
Dr. Otchere as a graduate of University of Waterloo and the University of Cape Coast, early this year was said to have been rewarded with School of Optometry of 1948 Graduate Scholarship Endowment Award and University of Waterloo Graduate Scholarship at the annual School of Optometry and Vision Science Awards ceremony held on 15th April 2019.
His research is said to focus on modalities of using specialty contact lens designs in the management of complex corneal conditions such as dry eyes which affect an estimated 20 million people globally.
A two-time recipient of Shire Pharma Canada ULC Student Fellowship 2018/2019, he is currently pursuing his doctoral program at the School of Optometry and Vision Science, University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
On her part, Dr. Afua Oteng Asare was honored as the Vision Impact Institute Ezell Fellow for the year 2019.
Currently, a Ph.D. candidate at the Institute of Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation at the University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada, her research focuses on the potential impacts of socioeconomic status on the utilization of vision care services and the cost-effectiveness of vision screening to detect amblyopia (‘lazy eye’) in young children in Ontario, Canada.
A graduate of Harvard University, Boston, USA, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi, she was awarded the Ross C. Purse Doctoral Fellowship by the Canadian National Institute of the Blind in 2018/19.
According to the United Nations, about 39 million people are blind globally with another 1.3 billion said to be living with some form of near vision impairment.
“Around the world, 39 million people are blind, and another 253 million have some sort of vision impairment.
“For them, Braille provides a tactical representation of alphabetic and numerical symbols so blind and partially-sighted people are able to read the same books and periodicals printed as are available in standard text form,” the organization in a statement to mark the maiden official World Braille Day— aimed to drive home the importance of written language for human rights.
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities cites Braille as a means of communication; and regards it as essential in education, freedom of expression and opinion, access to information and social inclusion for those who use it.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that people who are visually impaired are more likely than those with full sight to experience higher rates of poverty and disadvantage which can amount to a lifetime of inequality.
In Ghana, about 300,000 people are at risk of going blind, the Ghana Health Service (GHS) said last year. Already, about 200,000 individuals have gone blind with cataract being the leading cause.