News Story

College of Optometry offers educational experience

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. -- For decades the Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry has created and maintained a quality curriculum which produces some of the nation's most talented eye care professionals. However an education is more than courses and textbooks, so faculty, administration and student organizations at NSUOCO work to ensure students receive a comprehensive educational experience.
"Knowing how the eye works and how to treat its problems are only parts of being a good optometrist," said Dr. Alissa Proctor, associate professor of optometry at NSUOCO. "They must also be able to manage a business, learn the art of communicating with patients and hopefully give back to the community in which they live."
One of the extracurricular projects of NSUOCO are the missions to Central America organized by Student Volunteer Optometric Service to Humanity (SVOSH). Students and accompanying doctors have made three trips to Roatan, Honduras, and partnered with Clinica Esperanza and another to Sarstun, Guatemala, where they worked with Refuge International.
"We want to return to Honduras next summer and Guatemala hopefully in December 2013," said Proctor, who is faculty adviser to SVOSH. "The people in Roatan are becoming accustomed to our visits and they are appreciative of the annual care we can provide. We would also like to follow up on patients in Sarstun."
NSUOCO students have performed thousands of exams, many on children, during the missions. They provide donated eyeglasses and provide referrals for those needing more complex treatments, such as cataract surgery. The students may also diagnose problems infrequently seen in the U.S. where health care is much more accessible.
"The students see many patients and an array of disorders," Proctor said. "They also learn to work as a team in a less-than-ideal environment which helps them grow as professionals and as people."
Bringing guests with special insight to speak to students is also integral to enhancing the learning environment, and Proctor said the college was particularly honored to welcome Robin Benoit, author of "Jillian's Story," and her daughter Jillian.
During the Sept. 25 visit to campus Robin discussed Jillian's success story with vision therapy.
"Jillian suffered from amblyopia, which people often call 'lazy eye,'" Proctor said. "It is not easily diagnosed without an eye exam and they spoke about the process they went through. They now live in Norman and they were accompanied by their current optometrist Dr. Jackie Powers, an NSUOCO graduate."
The Benoits' visit was made possible through donations from HOYA Vision Care, the Optometric Extension Program and College of Optometrists in Vision Development. "Jillian's Story" was presented via Skype to other schools this past year.
"Usually, the Benoits hold their discussions via Skype," Proctor said. "That is why we were so excited when they accepted our invitation for an in-person visit."
NSUOCO is also a regular host of the annual Invitational Lens Symposium, where professionals learn more about the use of lenses, filters and prisms in optometric care. While it is a meeting of doctors from around the country, optometry students take part. At each symposium, a doctor sets aside time to talk to students about the profession.
"We work hard to provide the best education we can to our students," Proctor said. "We believe it is important for the students to hear success stories from practicing optometrists who work with patients for a living."
The NSUOCO faculty may want to provide more than courses for their students, but they also offer classes that don't seem like classes.
"We have a fourth-year course called 'Contact Lenses III' facilitated by Dr. Alan McKee," Proctor said. "Over the course of the semester, the students gain hands-on experience with advanced contact lens fits. Typically, there is an hour presentation by a guest lecturer and then the visiting doctor, faculty, residents and students see the patients that the students have recruited and scheduled themselves. My four residents are involved and they rave about what a wonderful experience it is." 
Speakers, symposiums, missions and hands-on experience augment the basic curriculum at NSUOCO to create outstanding optometrists and citizens.
"We also have a Practice Management Club where students devote time to learning how to open a practice and keep it running," Proctor said. "We want our students prepared for every facet of their careers."
For more information about NSUOCO, or to find out how to make donations of eyeglasses or funds for the SVOSH mission trips, call 918-444-4000.

Published: 12/17/2012 12:33:12 PM

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