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Wednesday / July 17.
HomeminewsFirst Group Singapore Polytechnic Optom Grads

First Group Singapore Polytechnic Optom Grads

The first group of optometry students have just graduated from Singapore Polytechnic.

Singapore Polytechnic, University of Manchester and Tan Tock Seng Hospital celebrated the inaugural graduation ceremony of the Optometry Degree Program on the 8 June 2011.

Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) and National Healthcare Group (NHG) have hired a group of degree-trained optometrists, who are among the first batch of 49 graduates who received their certificates at Singapore Polytechnic (SP).

These new graduates will start work at primary eye care clinics in a NHG Polyclinic. Supported by tele-medicine capabilities, the optometrists will be able to examine patients with eye problems and screen them for certain blinding conditions.

the graduation of Singapore’s first batch of optometry degree students is significant as it is a quantum leap in raising the education and qualification standard of optometrists in Singapore

The group of 49 students became the first in Singapore to graduate with a Bachelor of Science (with Honours) in Optometry, in a collaboration between SP and The University of Manchester (UM), with support from TTSH.

Among them, 14 graduated with First-Class Honours and 30 others with Second-Class Upper Honours. Nine in ten of the graduates have also found full-time employment.

The degree is awarded by the University of Manchester and is identical to that of the three-year full-time programme offered in the UK.

Another employer, Capitol Optical, is offering jobs to 10 of the graduates. Stanley Chan, its general manager, said, “University of Manchester’s Optometry Degree Programme at SP has provided a great learning experience and produced higher educated optometrists who will directly raise the local standard of practice in optometry by providing a higher level of professionalism in eye care services. We thank SP for its contribution in developing these graduates who will help redefine the primary eye care service standard for this industry.”

The graduates also welcomed news to vision care companies seeking to hire research optometrists.

Patrick Cherrier, President and CEO of Essilor Asia Pacific, Middle-East, Russia, Africa (AMERA), said, “The graduates from this course will be big contributors in raising the level of primary eye care in Singapore and will also contribute in research and development in leading vision care companies like Essilor.” Essilor and Johnson & Johnson Visioncare had also provided two scholarships each for the two-year study.

Singapore is a country with high prevalence in myopia and an aging population. There is a need for more degree-trained optometrists with the right set of skills to provide primary eyecare services.

Dr Wong Hon Tym, Head and Consultant of Department of Ophthalmology at TTSH, and Deputy Director of the NHG Eye Institute at TTSH, said, “These degree-trained optometrists will be able to perform eye examinations, potentially with the use of diagnostic eye drops in the future. Their ideal role will be in delivering community-based primary eye care, to detect both simple and key blinding eye problems. This will increase Singaporeans’ access to basic eye care, potentially reducing queue times at hospitals’ eye specialist clinics, which can then focus on secondary and tertiary care. Such a system has already been established for decades in countries such as the UK and Australia.”

Agreeing, Dr Koh Liang Hwee, President of Singapore Optometric Association, added, “Degree-trained optometrists will increase the standard of eye care in Singapore. It is crucial in preventing blindness in an aging population, managing myopia in our students and providing accurate quality optical aids for all.”

First started in 2009, the two-year full-time degree programme, approved and subsidised by Singapore’s Ministry of Education (MOE), caters specially to holders of the Diploma in Optometry in Singapore.

Jointly taught by a team of dedicated faculty staff from the UM and SP, the students are also exposed to hands-on experience at the Optometry Centre in SP and NHG Eye Institute at TTSH. The students were also guided in clinical examination, diagnosis and patient counselling.

Dr Philip Morgan, Programme Director of the Optometry Programme at the University of Manchester in UK, said, “All of the optometry staff at the University of Manchester are thrilled to see the graduation of the first student cohort from our new degree programme. Their graduation represents the culmination of their hard work and the excellent cooperative efforts of the academic staff at SP and in Manchester. We hope that this happy event is a key milestone for optometry in Singapore.”

Mr Tan Hang Cheong, SP’s Principal, said, “The graduation of Singapore’s first batch of optometry degree students is significant as it is a quantum leap in raising the education and qualification standard of optometrists in Singapore. The programme has enabled our brightest optometry students to continue their training and education and upgrade themselves, without having to go overseas – and at much more affordable cost.”

The importance of further education was not lost on practising optometrists. For Hon Xue Shun, the husband of the top graduate Ng Peck Hoon, seeing what his wife has gained from the degree programme has further strengthen his decision to enrol in the near future.

Mr Hon said, “I was definitely influenced by my wife. I learnt that she got to know about new instruments that can detect eye diseases, more details in practical techniques, in-depth information in examination of eye conditions – generally more comprehensive techniques than what we had learnt during our diploma programme.”

The couple, who graduated from SP with the Diploma in Optometry, was keen to upgrade themselves after setting up their own optical shop in 2006. With the enhanced eye care skills that Ms Ng now has, the couple hopes to offer more detailed consultation and primary eye care for their customers.