Orbis Future Vision Leaders work to Improve rural and Indigenous eye health | Orbis

Orbis Future Vision Leaders work to Improve rural and Indigenous eye health

For our Orbis Future Vision Leaders, finding ways to improve access to quality eye care in Canada and around the globe is at the heart of everything they do.

Hamza Inayat, a medical student at Western University, started his postsecondary education studying neuroscience and psychology at the University of Toronto, unsure of where he wanted to focus his career. A connection to a research project on physician leadership helped him decide that medical school was his goal.

Inayat was able to interview physicians, nurses, and allied health members on their perspectives and, through those conversations, he learned about effective leadership in medicine. He realized the traits people were discussing were ones he wanted to foster. He was also drawn to helping people within the community, something he has made a focus during his medical studies.

Western University medical student, Hamza Inayat, is President and Co-Founder of Northern Vision, an organization dedicated to improving access to eye care in rural and Indigenous communities in Canada.

This desire to help others inspired him to co-found Northern Vision, an organization of medical students and doctors who strive to promote access to rural and Indigenous eye care in Canada. Inayat saw a gap in the system where eye health professionals wanted to do more to support these communities—many who often have limited access to eye screening—but there was not a collective voice to bring everyone together to discuss the issues and potential solutions.

The Northern Vision team, including Sunil Ruparelia (Vice President, External Affairs) and Tara Gholamian (Vice President, Internal Affairs) meet regularly to discuss the organization's activities.

Already, the group has developed a research project to learn more about what residents know about rural and Indigenous health. They are also working on an education component to help eye health professionals learn more.

Hamza Inayat

President & Co-Founder, Northern Vision

We want to be a cen­tral­ized plat­form where every­one can come togeth­er. This is not only for oph­thal­mol­o­gists, but optometrists as well. They can bring togeth­er the ideas they have to help their communities.

His interest in this specific project was sparked when he was a volunteer with the Canadian Red Cross during the pandemic, participating in a program to call isolated seniors each week to combat loneliness. One senior he spoke with had been very active in her rural community before COVID. She was passionate about art and painting, but her eyesight was deteriorating and that was a major stress. Their conversations helped Inayat learn more about the lack of ophthalmology services in rural communities and to understand how isolating the loss of sight can be for people.

His own family in Pakistan live in rural communities, and many members were dealing with similar eye health concerns. Understanding this, he saw that there was an opportunity to make a difference in Canada and globally. Helping to improve access to eye care felt very important. “I want to make sure that, at the end of my career, I can look back and know I've made an impact on people, and had a fulfilling career helping others in their communities”.

In summer 2023, Inayat travelled back to Pakistan to do a global ophthalmology community elective. There, he helped set up eye screening programs in rural communities, often to support school children who had never had their eyes checked. The experience helped him see how change can be achieved through collaboration and teamwork. It further solidified his belief that programs like Northern Vision can play an important role in bringing about needed change.

As part of the Orbis Future Vision Leaders, Inayat is raising awareness of Northern Vision to even more medical students, and eye care professionals, and hoping to expand across Canada. “This is a way to connect people who have experience, learn from them, and collaborate together so we can help some of these communities.”

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