We work together with tertiary institutions and ministries of health and education to develop and establish the profession of optometry in countries where it doesn’t exist.

We believe educating and training people is the way to build the necessary workforce to affect change in countries where eye care services are inadequate or non-existent. Brien Holden Foundation is committed to addressing this gap in trained professionals by building a trained eye care workforce and developing and supporting optometry schools globally.

In developed countries, optometrists are the primary healthcare practitioners of the eye and visual system. Optometrists provide comprehensive eye and vision care, which includes refraction and dispensing of spectacles, or contact lenses, detection and management of disease in the eye, and the rehabilitation of eye conditions.

Many developing countries do not have optometry as an established or recognised profession which means optometry schools offering a diploma or degree level education, often do not exist. As a consequence, communities are not able to access eye examinations or correctly prescribed spectacles. This impact on people’s lives and the economic cost to the communities and countries affected is considerable. 

We work in collaboration with local partners and government. Our support includes:

  • advice and supply of curriculum
  • working to enhance infrastructure
  • providing educational resources
  • facilitating ongoing funding 
  • providing assistancein recruiting
  • developing new faculties

Optometry development program

We aim to provide ongoing development support for emerging optometry schools globally. To seek, identify and fill resource gaps in existing partner institutions, consolidate their academic and logistical systems, and establish alternate support systems. The establishment of new optometry programs will continue where commitments exist, but otherwise put on hold until a clear and sustainable exit/legacy framework exists in our current schools.

During the last financial year, workforce development progressed in 14 optometry programs in 11 countries. Nine of the 14 optometry schools graduated 142 students resulting in 637 practitioners cumulatively (since 2008) who can reach 1,274,000 beneficiaries per year (conservative estimate of 2000 potential patients per year).

Currently there are 944 students enrolled across the 14 optometry programs including the new intake of 300 students for the 2019 academic year.

Program innovations include a new higher learning education program we designed to bolster our existing support for emerging optometry schools. The Optometry Faculty Development Initiative program was design specifically to further develop the vision science faculty from the emergent optometry schools.


Over the last 10 years, Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation has been directly involved, via its Global Optometry Development Program, in the implementation and/or support of 14 emergent optometry schools in 11 countries. The launch of the majority of those optometry programs marked the inauguration of the profession for their country. To date, these efforts have yielded 637 graduates that contribute to universal eye health by reaching poor and underserved populations.

September 2014 heralded a historic moment for Vietnam’s education and eye health sectors with the opening of Vietnam’s first optometry course at the University of Medicine Pham Ngoc Thach (UPNT) in Ho Chi Minh City. The opening was the culmination of our ten year plan to introduce optometry to the country and was a joint initiative between us, the UPNT and the Ho Chi Minh City Eye Hospital.

One year later in October 2015, Vietnam’s second optometry course opened in the north at Hanoi Medical University. This second initiative we support through education and training of the lecturers. Across the two facilities there are currently more than 300 optometry students enrolled and over 120 qualified Vietnamese-trained optometrists.

Optometry Faculty Development Initiative

The OFDI’s leading goal is to support and enhance the training of optometrists enrolled in emerging optometry schools across the world, to raise their capability as lecturers and mentors for the new students enrolling. This includes access to courses specifically designed to build the critical educational skills and knowledge needed to support future optometrists. The specific aim is to strengthen emerging optometry schools by providing a clear pathway of auxiliary learning for faculty.

As part of this Initiative we offer access to social responsibility modules and innovative teaching and learning resources.

The last rotation of the course saw 29 faculty members from nine optometry programs in seven countries took part in the program during the 2019 rotation. We aim to run this program each year to continue the upskilling of our first generation optometrists globally

Acknowledgement of Country

Brien Holden Foundation acknowledges the traditional Aboriginal custodians of the many lands that we live and work on, and their continuing connection to Country and culture.

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