Article Date: 9/1/2007

Optometry in China
reflections THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY

Optometry in China

Chinese optometry schools have only existed since the mid-90s.

BAI-CHUAN JIANG, PH.D., F.A.A.O., FT. LAUDERDALE, FLA.

When I was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Houston, College of Optometry in 1988, Dean William R. Baldwin, O.D., asked me — a native of China — to contact Chinese medical schools to gauge their interest in developing an optometry program.

Reaching out

I wrote to about 20 different Chinese medical schools. The first positive reply came from Riqian Li, M.D., president of the Wenzhou Medical College, near Shanghai. Dr. Li and Jia Qu, M.D., associate chair of the college's ophthalmology department, joined us at the 1990 American Academy of Optometry (AOA) meeting in Nashville, where they developed an understanding of U.S. optometric education and began to consider starting an optometry program at their school.

Striking a C.O.R.D.

In the 1990s, several meetings occurred between representatives of the U.S. optometry schools and the medical schools in China. Five Chinese medical universities and colleges (Wenzhou Medical College, Sun Yat-Sen Medical University, Shanghai Medical University, Huaxi Medical Sciences University and Tianjin Medical University) formed a partnership with three optometry schools in the United States: the New England College of Optometry, University of Houston College of Optometry and the University of California – Berkeley School of Optometry. This partnership was referred to as the China Optometry Resource Development Project (CORD).

Under CORD, about 30 young, Chinese ophthalmologists obtained six-months of optometric training at U.S. optometry schools and translated the courses into Chinese. Several U.S. professors also traveled to China to teach optometric courses.

Soon, China's Ministry of Public Health held two meetings of the International Advisory Board of Optometry in Beijing (1994) and Shanghai (1997), respectively, to educate the administrators of Chinese health care and education on the need for- and scope of optometry in China. The directors and educators of CORD, and representatives from research centers in Hong Kong and Australia attended. The result: Optometry became listed in the B.S. degree system in China.

Personal efforts

I helped Nova Southeastern University, College of Optometry (NSUCO) connect with Tianjin Eye Hospital, a Tianjin Medical University-affiliated hospital, in 2000, so NSUCO could use it as an externship site.

To date, more than 15 students have completed rotations in China. When not learning about eye disease and treatments, they spend their evenings teaching American optometry and English to young, Chinese doctors and graduate students in the hospital.

In the fall of 2006, NSUCO welcomed two visiting Chinese ophthalmologists from Tianjin Eye Hospital who contributed their thoughts on our courses based on their clinical experience.

Today, several Chinese schools have optometry programs. As a result, students from both the United States and China are able to exchange valuable research and methods of treatment, enabling them to better understand eye ailments and manage patients. OM


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Optometric Management, Issue: September 2007