Our feature this month is not an object but an organisation. The World Council of Optometry meets in London this month. Its association with the city has been closer than younger delegates may realise.
|Delegates from Germany and the Netherlands in Oxford, 1935|
|IOOL Logo 1969-1985|
Paper weight from the St Louis Meeting 1978
|IOOL Logo 1985-1995|
|WOD Poster 1986|
In the early days the League's role was one of boosting the image of optics generally. 'Optometric' was not added to its title until 1969. The IOL intervened in various court cases. These included:
The League's main role, however, was as an informal forum to share knowledge on optics and optical professional practice across national boundaries. It helped that delegates generally paid their own way to meetings and that the membership base was small. Meetings were held in conjunction with major optical congresses in Berlin, Stuttgart, Paris, Amsterdam, Cambridge, Delft, Jena, Stockholm and Florence. Although the League's work was discontinued during the Second World War it was revived in 1947 when George Giles convened a meeting of the surviving former committee members in London. The first post-war meeting was held in Bern in 1950 but this was not a major congress, the first of which was the London International Optical Congress of 1951. Another London congress was held in 1970 and the last, before this month, in 1984.
Although the League Secretary was generally the Secretary of the British Optical Association they were helped by assistant secretaries of whom the first was Ivy Parnum, later Mrs Giles. She ran the Secretariat from the BOA headquarters in Brook Street. Later administrators were Margaret Darby and the American-born Dorothy Leason (1979-1996) who oversaw the office move to the 3rd floor of the British College of Ophthalmic Opticians at Knaresbrough Place in Earls Court. A change of title to include 'optometric' was first mooted by Israeli and South African delegates in 1955, but there was to be a gap of fourteen more years before the term enjoyed sufficient worldwide acceptance.
Following its renaming as the International Optometric and Optical League (IOOL) in 1969 and the revision of its constitution in 1975 the work of the League expanded in various directions. A committee on Legal and Legislative Developments was established in 1975. Significant court cases included:
A newsletter 'Interoptics' was published in both English and Japanese. The College currently holds issues 17-68 (1977-1985) and is keen to solicit the donation of earlier or later issues.
By its fiftieth anniversary meeting in Dusseldorf, in 1977, the League could claim to be 'a truly international voice....an authority on education, training (and) scope of practice'. Three of the original delegates from 1927 were able to attend this meeting including Sutcliffe's great friend W.J. de Bruyne, incidentally a great supporter and donor to the BOA Museum. The next year the League held a General Delegates Meeting in St Louis, USA, its first such meeting in the 'New World', and in 1980 it went to Japan. That year an Australian proposal to rename the League simply the International Optometric League was defeated.
The recognition of a changing international scene with an ever more diverse set of national legal systems to negotiate, plus the sometimes perilous financial situation caused some to see the League's future in a new role as a general strategic body. The League now had member organisations in 27 different countries, not all English-speaking, and the interests of some were very different from the majority. For instance in the 1980s there was renewed pressure from some Asian countries to consider the approval of part-trained or 'barefoot' optometrists able to offer only a restricted form of practice. In 1982 the President also made the shocking announcement that still 'Two-thirds of the countries of the world know nothing of optometry'. The League instigated a World Optometry Day each March and experimented with the appointment of a full-time Executive Director, Don Schaefer of Canada, in 1984 but the funding to continue this post proved insufficient after 1986 though that same year the American Dr G. Burtt Holmes became the League's first non-UK President. Peter Smith, who retired from the College at the end of 1981, remained as 'Honorary' Secretary to the IOOL until the mid 1980s and was thereafter 'Emeritus' Secretary. A formal proposal to change the role of the League was first proposed by Peter Roost at the meeting in Luxembourg in 1989.
Two World Conferences on Optometric Education were held in 1990 (USA) and 1993 (Hong Kong) and a regional conference on the same subject was held in Africa in 1992.
|Presidents of IOOL|
|John H. Sutcliffe (UK)||1927-1940|
|Sir William Champness (UK)||1947-1953|
|George Giles (UK)||1953-1965|
|Reginald Goode (UK)||1965-1971|
|George A. Wheatcroft (UK)||1971-1980|
|Dr David Pickwell (UK)||1980-1986|
|G. Burtt Holmes (USA)||1986-1992|
|Peter Roost (Switzerland)||1992-1994|
The WCO was formally established in 1995. Its administration continued to be run from London until 31 December 1996 when it moved to offices at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in the USA. The WCO's Second World Conference on Optometric Globalisation, organised in conjunction with the College of Optometrists, was held in London on 11-13 April 2008. The College of Optometrists was honoured that the current President was one of its own, Robert Chappell FCOptom.
UPDATE: The secretariat of the World Council of Optometry was once again passed to the College following its success in a competitive tender exercise, as of 1 July 2008.
As of 2009 The World Council of Optometry could claim to be "an international optometric organization representing 200,000 optometrists from 75 member organizations in 40 countries. Our mission is to facilitate the enhancement and development of eye and vision care worldwide via education, humanitarian outreach and policy development. WCO is a unifying voice and catalyst for international projects and services that meet the needs of the optometric profession and public. WCO is the first and only optometric organization in official relations with the World Health Organization. We also maintain the highest level of membership in the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness".