With agro-based economy around 75% of the population of Bangladesh resides in rural areas where overall health care facilities are inadequate and eye care facilities are virtually non-existent. A great majority of blinding eye diseases are either preventable or curable, through application of integrated community based approach, knowledge and appropriate technology at a cost effective and affordable way.
While providing eye care services at the community level, a group of ophthalmologists soon realised that the existing problems of blindness in Bangladesh can not be tackled through existing conventional ophthalmic training. To cope with the shortage of doctors for the expanding eye care programmes, the informal training of doctors that was started by the organization in 1979, gradually developed into a regular structured course through the introduction of epidemiology and demography of blindness and visual impairment, preventive ophthalmology, eye care management, etc. This led to the establishment of Institute of Community Ophthalmology(ICO) in 1981, initially as an affiliated institution, eventually became a constituent part of University of Chittagong. The institution is housed at Chittagong Eye Infirmary and Training complex campus because of the availability of necessary infrastructure and logistic services and support particularly the clinical facilities. A separate Governing Body headed by Vice chancellor, University of Chittagong are at the helm.
The Institute is headed by a full-time director who looks after the routine and day to day academic and clinical activities. There are full time and part- time faculties. Prof F.A Billson, Chairman, Department of Ophthalmogy, Sydney University is closely associated with the doctors training program since 1979 and assisted with the creation of the Institute of Community ophthalmology. He is a member of external faculty and examiner. Prof Billson also created “Penelope Billson Chair of Community Ophthalmology” in memory of his late mother. The Institution is also fortunate to have a group of part-time Faculties of International repute of which, Prof. R. Pararajasegaram (Geneva) and Prof. Rogers Pierson (USA) are mentionable.
The Institution runs regular post-graduate courses in Ophthalmology leading to Diploma in Community Ophthalmology, in which, besides, doctors from within the country, also from abroad enrolls. So far, a total of 266 doctors have successfully completed the Diploma in Community Ophthalmology course and has obtained the certificate.
Since 2010, DCO course is affiliated by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), Dhaka and is run by its academic rules and regulations. ICO is also a centre for “International Council of Ophthalmology” Examination for the last 15 years.
Institute of Community Ophthalmology (ICO) has also started Bachelor of Science in Optometry (B-Optom) since 2010. This is a 4-years honors course under University of Chittagong. Every year 12 to 15 students are enrolled in this course.
Institute has a regular publication (Ophthalmic Journal) named “Horizon” which is published annually where doctors are getting opportunity to publish their studies. Institution is also involved in different epidemiological and clinical research activities through an integrated research cell named Dr. Ahamadur Rahman Research Centre at CEITC campus. Click to visit ICO website