The College of Optometry at Western University of Health Sciences, in Pomona, Calif., has been granted preliminary approval by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE). This means that the college can officially begin student recruitment and enrollment for its inaugural class in 2009.

This serves as recognition that the college is on target in its planning and development, says Elizabeth Hoppe, O.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H., dean of the college.

In December, the university broke ground on a new building that will house the optometry program, as well as the dentistry, podiatry and osteopathic medicine programs. The target completion date is summer 2009, just in time for classes to begin that fall.

The four-story, 180,000-square-foot Health Education Center will include six auditoriums and a full floor of research labs to be shared by the four colleges.

Dr. Hoppe says that Westerns optometry college is developing an integrated curriculum that aims to expand the optometric scope of practice while positioning optometry in the health-care delivery team. The ultimate goal of the curriculum is to prepare graduates with the required levels of knowledge, skills, and ethical values needed for full-scope entry-level practice.

Students in the universitys four medical collegesoptometry, podiatry, medicine and dentistrywill take several courses together in an effort to foster community among the disciplines, says Dr. Hoppe.

Also, students from each discipline will work together in small groups to analyze complex patient care scenarios, she says. And, to support interprofessional clinical education, the on-campus Patient Care Center [to be completed in spring 2009] has dedicated space for the interprofessional care of patients with complex health care needs.

The colleges curriculum will also include a focus on neuro-optometry and provide students the option of attaining their M.S., M.P.H., or Ph.D., as well as their O.D. in dual-degree programs. Students will have the ability to provide care in the many areas of rehabilitation, and those who are interested will be well prepared to seek additional training and experience in these key areas, Dr. Hoppe says.

Meanwhile, many O.D.s worry that too many students are adding to an oversupply of optometrists. Posts on voice concerns that the three schools currently in the worksWestern University of Health Sciences, Midwestern University in Glendale, Ariz., and the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texaswill turn out too many graduates for the market to support.

Western University"s college of optometry expects to enroll 70 students in its inaugural class in 2009

Vol. No: 145:04Issue: 4/15/2008