Optometrist, Erna Takazawa has been named the University of Auckland 2017 Young Alumna of the Year for her work developing optometry in Samoa and helping to improve eye care in the Pacific.
Ms. Takazawa graduated from the University of Auckland in 2012 with a Bachelor in Optometry with First Class Honours. She returned to Samoa as the only optometrist to work with a team of eye nurses looking after the country’s eye problems. At that time, and with no ophthalmologist working in Samoa, she relied on overseas visiting teams and the government overseas treatment schemes to New Zealand for specialist surgeries. The more recent arrival of an ophthalmologist has enabled Ms. Takazawa to travel to Fiji where she trains nurses from throughout the Pacific region in eye care. She also works at the Samoa National Health Services as National Eye Health Coordinator, to coordinate visiting eye teams, liaise with overseas donors on Samoa’s needs and attend meetings.
In a country where many parents are unable to afford spectacles for their children, Ms. Takazawa said one of her main aims is to ensure no child has to live with permanent vision loss because their parents are unable to afford treatment. “Unfortunately Samoa isn’t like New Zealand and Australia where the government has subsidies for children’s glasses,” she explained.
She said the single biggest challenge to providing sustainable eye care in Samoa remains funding. “If we had more funding we would have more eye care professionals trained, more equipment and better eye facilities. Right now we are taking baby steps and we are headed in the right direction towards sustainability thanks in part to our overseas donors.”
Unused equipment, sunglasses and spectacle frames can be of use in Samoa. If you would like to donate supplies, please contact Ms. Takazawa: [email protected]