By Shahfizal Musa
KUALA LUMPUR, 1 Oct. 2010 - Malaysia currently faces a shortage of nearly 3,000 optometrists if it were to meet the ratio of one optometrist for every 7,000 people. It currently have only 834 registered optometrists, 736 of whom are UKM graduates, against 3,600 needed to meet the ratio requirement.
There is thus a need to increase such qualified eye specialists to meet the need of an expanding demand, said Minister of Higher Education, Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin when launching the Malaysian Optometry Day at The Faculty of Health Sciences UKM yesterday.
Measures needed to be taken to increase such specialists is in line with the 10th Malaysia plan objectives which emphasises on intellectual development rather than mere physical developments as in previous plans.
He said: “The shift in priorities is very important and significant in the light of the ongoing transformation process for Malaysia to become a fully developed nation by 2020. This must be supported with a source of talented and qualified human capital needed in all sectors, said Dato Seri Khaled.
It was feared the shortage of optometrists could lead to a brain drain phenomenon because there will not be enough skilled professionals to pass on their knowledge to the younger generations
“Though the issue of brain drain is not that serious in optometry, proactive steps needed to be taken to ensure that the graduates work in the country,” said Datuk Seri Khaled.
UKM was the first institution of higher learning to have the Bachelors programme specialising in Optometry in Malaysia and the Asia Pacific region. Optometry graduates produced by UKM are now working in various higher learning institutions in the country as well as overseas in Singapore and Australia.
Also present in at the ceremony was Deputy Vice Chancellor, Prof. Dato’ Dr Mohamad Abdul Razak, Professor Dr Salman H. Inayat Hussin, the Dean of the Faculty and Prof of Toxicology, senior members of the optometry faculty and representives from other higher learning institutions which offer optometry courses.
Aug 15th has been chosen as Malaysia Optometry Day to mark the date when the first batch of seven optometrists graduated from UKM. They were the pioneers in the field of optometry studies in Malaysia
This year the celebration was delayed to yesterday (30th September) in deference to the month of Ramadhan.