The University of Pikeville, located in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky, announced it will create the state’s first college of optometry.

University president James Hurley, EdD, said that the Kentucky College of Optometry will open in the fall of 2016 with an inaugural class of 60 students, and be housed in a newly built facility. It would be the 22nd college of optometry in the United States.

The university has completed a feasibility study, and an advisory committee (including Kentucky optometrists Joe E. Ellis and Jerald F. Combs) will help move the college of optometry forward. The university has also started a search for the college’s dean.

Dr. Hurley said that the new college is necessary to meet the demand for eye care. “More than 25% of our counties in the commonwealth [of Kentucky] don’t have a practicing optometrist.” Also, there are no other schools of optometry in the South within hundreds of miles.

However, less than 50 miles away, the Appalachian College of Optometry (which was first announced three years ago) is moving forward in Grundy, Va.

Officials from Appalachian College of Optometry recently signed an agreement with Emory & Henry College, in Emory, Va., to work together toward the development of the school of optometry in Grundy. The agreement formalizes an effort to achieve accreditation for the school.

The school will likely be renamed Emory & Henry College, School of Optometry, although the final decision has not been made, said current president Brian Looney, OD.

Nevertheless, the optometry school expects to open in the fall of 2016 with a class of 48 students, Dr. Looney said.