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Oklahoma’s optometric scope of practice offers NSU students field-leading research opportunities

Optometry Clinic Hasting (Tahlequah, Oklahoma) — Oklahoma optometric law allows Northeastern State University optometry students to gain hands-on knowledge of research procedures that may be part of optometry’s scope of practice in the future.

 Dr. Jonathan Janzen, assistant professor at Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry, said students benefit from living in a state where optometrists can perform certain laser procedures and other surgical procedures.

 Dr. Richard Castilloassistant dean and clinical professor, said NSUOCO students have the opportunity to observe NSUOCO’s ophthalmologist perform office-based surgical procedures, including many that are not presently performed by optometrists such as cryosurgery of eyelid growths and small benign tumors, blepharoplasty for the correction of droopy, sagging eyelids, biopsy of potentially cancerous growths and the correction of various eyelid malpositions, such as inverted or outward turned eyelids.

 Additionally, he said NSUOCO students benefit from direct hands-on training, and a much more comprehensive clinical experience than other programs around the nation which are limited by outdated rules and statutes. Castillo said NSU optometry has been training the nations’ optometrists in advanced optometric procedures for over three decades.

 As Oklahoma’s training institution for advanced optometry techniques, NSU optometry faculty encourage students to take advantage of this not only through practice, but also by contributing to the growing body of optometric research.

 “We have done studies looking into outcomes from different laser procedures such as YAG and SLTs,” Janzen said. “We've also done studies exploring in-office surgical procedures optometrists are able to perform under Oklahoma law.”

 All NSU optometry students are required to do a research project. This project will enable the students to become knowledgeable about their research area, learn to think critically, contribute to the optometric body of knowledge and help them to become better doctors.

 The topics of students’ research projects are wide-ranging, from investigating nutritional supplements for eye health in diabetics, to a novel device to create 3D ultrasound images from standard 2D ultrasound scans, or to the safety and efficacy of different lasers used to treat glaucoma.

 “Often students are initially apprehensive at the thought of needing to do a research project,” Janzen said. “It's a lot of fun to help them through the process of examining their interests, doing background research and developing a research question that they are genuinely curious about. I'm impressed with their projects, and I'm proud of what the students can accomplish.”

 NSU optometry student Hayden Black said his research involved comparing the agreeability of measurements between three separate pachymeters, which measures the thickness of the cornea. The machines give measurements that can be used to diagnose and manage different conditions, such as refractive error, glaucoma, keratoconus, fitting contact lenses and more.

 “I now understand and appreciate the complexity of organizing and completing a research project,” Black said. “Without research articles, we wouldn’t be able to establish ‘standard of care’ protocols that help us treat our patients with the best care possible.”

 Janzen said that students present their research projects at optometry conferences, such as Heart of America Eye Care Congress or the American Academy of Optometry meetings.

 “The small taste of research the students get will help them to understand research that will impact their practice in the future,” Janzen said.

 NSU is highlighting different aspects of the Oklahoma College of Optometry program as part of its “Building Excellence: A Vision for the Future” campaign for a new Oklahoma College of Optometry facility. The estimated price tag is around $33 million. To learn more about the campaign visit the NSU Alumni Association’s website for updates.