Appalachian College of Optometry and Emory & Henry College Sign Agreement to Develop School of Optometry

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Jake Schrum (l) and Brian Looney sign letter of intent.
GRUNDY, Va.—Officials from Emory & Henry College and the Appalachian College of Optometry signed an agreement Jan. 30 to work together to develop a school of optometry here. This formalizes an effort to achieve accreditation for the school. They hope to meet a large need both for education in the field and for accessible, quality eyecare in the region. Currently, the two closest schools of optometry are the University of Alabama’s School of Optometry in Birmingham and The Ohio State University’s College of Optometry in Columbus.
 
“Both of these schools are relatively small, accepting approximately 40 to 65 students each year. That leaves a large geographic gap in providing optometry education for potential students in our region,” said Brian Looney, who was named president of the Appalachian College of Optometry in April 2012, as reported by VMail.
 
“Kentucky's practice law gives us a unique opportunity to allow our students clinical education of laser protocol and procedures if we can develop a clinical operation in Kentucky, which is a short distance from Grundy,” said Looney, who explained that Oklahoma and Kentucky allow properly trained optometrists to perform laser procedures that are limited to the practice of ophthalmology in other states.
 
“Emory & Henry is very enthusiastic about pursuing this opportunity,” said Jake Schrum, president of Emory & Henry. “Emory & Henry is a national leader in applying the resources of higher education to community development. Our goal is to become even more intentional and impactful in this regard. We feel that developing an optometry school very much enhances our proud history of service to our region by helping us meet a growing demand for better healthcare in Southwest Virginia.”
 
The school would be located in a three-story, 38,000-square-foot facility with classrooms, seminar rooms and office space. To date, $11.6 million has been dedicated to the project, including $6 million from the Buchanan County Board of Supervisors to cover operating costs during the initial phases of development and $5.6 million from the Coalfield Economic Development Authority for capital improvements of real estate, new construction and equipment purchases. The money from both groups is allocated by the Buchanan County Industrial Development Authority, which provided the initial leadership for the project. View the signing of the agreement here.