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In September, Chitkara University, a state private institute located in Punjab, announced a 4-year Optometry program with Lenskart, a leading Indian optical eyewear retail chain and this created quite an uproar within the optical community with many people voicing their concerns and feelings related to this proposed partnership.
There were several allegations made on various social media sites when the news broke out and The Indian Optician (TIO) decided to meet Mr. Aditya Goyal, Principal of Sankara College of Optometry, Bangalore, to get some clarity on this crucial matter. Mr. Goyal is an illustrious personality who is an adjunct faculty at Pennsylvania College of Optometry, Salus University, USA and also serves as President on the board of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO). He has been instrumental in establishing colleges of optometry in Chennai, Bangalore and Ludhiana along with Sankara eye care group of hospitals. These colleges are running optometry programs at bachelors and masters levels. Presented below are some excerpts from the interview…read on to find out the views of the much respected gentleman…
The Indian Optician (TIO): Ever since Chitkara University announced a 4-year Optometry program with Lenskart, many people from the optometric community have vehemently expressed their views against such a tie-up. TIO would like to know your thoughts on this proposed project.
Aditya Goyal (AG): Thanks for providing this opportunity to voice my sentiments about the episode that you have mentioned. My feelings are no different from any of the optometrists who are speaking against this proposal. In my opinion, this is not “just” a project, but a death knell for optometric education and optometry as a profession. 21st September is a “black day” in the history of Indian optometry. Optometrists will rue this day for generations to come. I had said earlier that it is an inappropriate marriage. The entire profession is questioning the legitimacy of this wedding. Will anyone accept the validity of M.B.B.S course partnered with a pharmaceutical company? This partnership can only be deemed as the collaboration of conveniences, which is not in favour of optometry as a profession and eye care of Indian population.
TIO: As Chitkara University is already running a MOptom programme with Sankara Eye Hospital and Lotus Eye Hospital Mumbai, is there actually a need for an industry-endorsed specialised program? Will such a tie-up prove to be instrumental or detrimental in shaping the future of primary eye care need in India?
AG: It is not just M.Optom, they are successfully running a B.Optom program too. We are unable to understand the need to get into this collaboration and run a parallel program. This collaboration is not industry endorsed; it is industry managed. Had it only been endorsed; we would not have any objections. This program is stated to be run along with industry. This is not acceptable to the fraternity. The interests of both the partners are clearly visible and do not require any explanations.
As mentioned, this collaboration will prove to be the death knell for primary eye care in India. How can one expect a graduate trained in this manner to take care of the clinical requirements of the people?
TIO: Do you think that such a partnership will allow corporates to dictate the curriculum of optometry? What steps can the University take to safeguard the interests of optometry education?
AG: Corporate interference in the curriculum is precisely our concern and the point of discord. We are afraid that this phenomenon will have a mushrooming effect and ruin optometric education and in turn the profession.
Chitkara University should understand this point and not partner the program with organisations which will not be able to provide a full scope clinical optometry training to the students. I feel that is the basic essence of permitting academia to partner with hospitals to provide clinical training.
TIO: In your opinion, what will be an ideal solution to resolve the issue?
AG: All the parties in question should sit across the table, understand the concerns, and sort them out. It is quite a simple issue to be resolved at this point of time. However, our plea is falling on deaf ears. In the best interest of optometric education, profession of optometry and eye care needs of Indian population, this must be resolved before the situation turns malignant.
TIO: In what ways can the industry and trade work together for the benefit of optometry academia?
AG: We are ever in favour of the industry and trade supporting optometry education. We welcome them with folded hands. They can sponsor labs, they can sponsor books, they can propagate optometry as a profession, they can run finishing schools for graduates, they can institute awards for graduates to encourage them to pursue their education and interest in optometry further. There is a lot that they can do to foster growth of our profession. We need them and always look forward to their support. However, interference in academics is not acceptable.
TIO: Thank you very much for sharing your views with us. We sincerely hope that common sense will prevail and the issue will be amicably resolved in the best interests of optometric education and eye care needs of people at large.
THE INDIAN OPTICIAN
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