Erna Takazawa is Samoa’s first and only optometrist. She is known as a trailblazer in her community, her efforts leading to programmes for affordable eye care and early detection of eye problems.
After graduating from the University of Auckland in 2012, Erna began working at the newly-established Samoa Vision Centre. She has been instrumental in providing access to free eye exams for children, people with disabilities and over-65s, free glasses for children and more affordable glasses for adults.
Erna is a member of Samoa’s Allied Health Council, which governs all practising allied health professionals in Samoa. She is a workforce support consultant for Fred Hollows Foundation NZ and lectures in Fiji, training eye nurses from around the Pacific. She is the clinical director of Special Olympics Samoa’s Opening Eyes programme, which has delivered vision-screening services for around 200 athletes with intellectual and physical disabilities. She has also worked as a vision trainer with the non-government organisation SENESE, training teachers in primary and secondary schools to detect vision problems in their students.
In 2015 Erna was named the country’s first-ever Queen’s Young Leader Award winner, a top honour received by just nine others across the Pacific region. She has been on the programme’s advisory panel two years in a row.
In 2017 she received the Young Alumna of the Year award from Auckland University.
“I will change the world by tackling vision impairment and saving people’s sight one patient at a time. Without good vision it can really limit a person’s potential and quality of life thus I believe in a world where no one has to suffer from preventable causes of blindness or vision impairment. Early detection and proper treatment are key to saving one’s sight.”