Dr Vanessa Moodley along with co-founders Mr Tate Madlala and Mr Laurent Schneitter, launched the Keratoconus Foundation of South Africa, early in November at a Sandton venue. Vision took the opportunity to find out more about the Foundation during a chat with Vanessa.
Ed – You have been in the academic world for a long time – what is your current position?
V – I am still in academia as Senior Lecturer at UKZN and I have also recently been appointed as the Chairperson of the Education Sub-Committee of the African Council of Optometry. This will help me engage with academic institutions on the continent to strengthen optometry education and research.
Ed – Whose brain child is the Keratoconus Foundation?
V – I have for a while been burdened by the increasing numbers of children I encountered, who have advanced keratoconus but no financial resources to pay for treatment, so I guess that really was the trigger. My two co-founders, Tate Madlala and Laurent Schneitter, without hesitation, shared the vision to set up the Foundation.
Ed – What are the aims and objectives of the Foundation?
V – The mission is to provide a comprehensive support system for patients living with keratoconus, to ensure that no one is blind or visually impaired because keratoconus is not diagnosed or appropriately treated.
- Raise public awareness of the condition and the need for donor corneas.
- Train teachers/parents/nurses to ensure early detection and referral.
- Undertake advocacy efforts to have keratoconus included for management at all state hospitals.
- Train practitioners in appropriate diagnosis and management of the disease.
- Facilitate access to necessary treatment; RGP contact lenses, corneal-cross linking and surgical intervention.
- Collaborate with national and international partners to ensure that no child has to leave school, being visually impaired due to keratoconus.
- Support research and development in keratoconus.
Ed – Where was the launch held and was it well attended?
V – The Foundation was officially launched in Johannesburg and yes, we had many more attendees than expected, which was very encouraging. However, we have a growing national and international support base.
Ed – How will the Foundation be funded?
V – We have varied strategies to raise funds, such as direct funding through our website, www.keratoconusfoundationsa.org, hosting fundraising events, offering contact lens courses/training and through corporate sponsorships. Practitioners also provide support by offering their clinical services to the Foundation and other individuals have contacted us to offer the Foundation various forms of support.
Ed – How will patients qualify for treatment through the Foundation?
V – Currently, patients in need are referred to us by their optometrists based at university clinics, hospitals or private practices.
Ed – Where will these patients be seen?
V – Our partner private practitioners, hospitals and university eye clinics will see the patients initially and will undertake the follow up care.
Ed – Do you have some patients lined up for treatment at this stage?
V – Yes, we have a growing list of patients requiring assistance, which makes us realise that an organisation such as ours is long overdue.