Students who attend the College of Optometry must meet the following requirements for a Doctor of Optometry degree:
- Prior completion of the baccalaureate degree or equivalent
- A minimum of four academic years, a summer term after the second year, and a summer term after the third year
- Completion of 177 semester hours.
- A passing grade in each core and elective course
- A grade point average of 2.00 or better in the professional educational program
- Compliance with all other applicable requirements in the general information section of this catalog and the College of Optometry regulations.
Optometrists are health care professionals who competently solve human eye and vision problems. Most optometrists work in primary care practice, serving patients who need eye and vision care, who seek periodic evaluation of their eye and vision status, or who are referred by other professionals. The optometrist cares for most of the public’s eye and vision problems.
The practice of primary care optometry is concerned with the examination, diagnosis, treatment, and management of diseases and disorders of the vision system, eye and associated structures as well as the diagnosis of related systemic conditions. In order to properly function as an optometrist, mastery of several bodies of knowledge is necessary. An understanding of the stimuli that initiate vision, the anatomy and physiology of the structures that mediate vision, and visual information processing represents a portion of the appropriate knowledge base called vision science. Understanding of optical physics for the provision of appropriate visual images is critical for the correction of refractive errors and binocular vision anomalies. Understanding pathophysiological processes, pharmacological processes, and systemic physiology and pathology are necessary for the proper diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases and the recognition, co-management or referral of systemic diseases with ocular and visual manifestations.
Other responsibilities exist beyond the individual patient/practitioner relationship. Often visual health is a societal phenomenon, and optometrists must educate the community concerning what constitutes a good visual environment. For example, optometrists have been involved in the designing of more easily seen traffic signals and signs, highway lighting and marking, classroom design, and much more. They also are involved in community-wide visual screening of both school children and the general population.
The major educational goal is to produce health care practitioners who have appropriate knowledge, skill, and competence to fulfill the role of delivering primary eye and vision care; who counsel patients concerning health promotion; and who manage curative or preventive regimens in consultation with other health care practitioners.
Professional Degree Program
The educational program in optometry requires four academic years and two summer sessions. One-third of the fourth-year class serves external multidisciplinary primary care clinical rotations during each of the three semesters. One-third serves in an external medical setting, and one-third rotates through specialty clinics each term. Didactic courses are taken during the specialty clinic rotation. Students must satisfactorily complete a total of 177 semester hours, at least seven hours of which must be in approved electives. With permission of the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, students may also take graduate courses in physiological optics for elective credit in the professional degree program.