Founding president of the Appalachian College of Optometry, Brian Looney, O.D.
Optometrist Brian Looney is hard at work making one of his dreams a reality—an optometry school in his hometown of Grundy, Va.

Dr. Looney was recently announced as the founding president of the Appalachian College of Optometry. Currently, he is working on the self study, which he will submit to the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education in February 2013 to acquire provisional accreditation for the Appalachian College of Optometry.

Once that accreditation is granted, Dr. Looney will begin hiring faculty and recruiting a class of 48 students, with an expected first day of classes at ACO to begin Fall 2014.

The location for the college would be on the former site for the Appalachian College of Pharmacy. Dr. Looney says the building is 38,000 sq. ft. and is already suitable for use with lecture halls, laboratory space, faculty offices, administrative offices and student areas.

“There would also be new construction, a 20,000-sq. ft. building, which would house the college’s eye clinic; however, the new construction will not be started until provisional accreditation is obtained,” he says. “Construction would be completed by the time the first class become third-years and are ready to start clinical rotations.”

The new school of optometry was announced more than a year ago when the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority approved a $5.6 million loan for the development the college.

For his part, Dr. Looney owns two optometric practices in Grundy and Welch, and plans to eventually integrate his current patient base into the school’s eye clinic. He believes the rural area would offer students a wide patient base and a comprehensive clinical education, in which they would be trained to handle any and all situations that may present—because there is currently no ophthalmology presence in the area.