University of Pikeville Announces the Creation of the Kentucky College of Optometry

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PIKEVILLE, Ky.—On Wednesday, Feb. 26, the University of Pikeville announced the creation of the Kentucky College of Optometry. The American Optometric Association’s Accreditation Council on Optometric Education notified university officials the week prior that it had voted to designate the University of Pikeville-Kentucky College of Optometry as a “Stage One Applicant.”

The university expects to welcome its first class in the fall of 2016, with 60 students admitted per class, for a total of 240. While the University of Pikeville already has many of the facilities necessary to accommodate the Kentucky College of Optometry, plans to build a new educational facility are under way, according to a statement from the university. A national search for a dean has begun.

“Today’s announcement is a product of this bold vision,” said university president, Dr. James Hurley, referring to the university’s Vision 2020 strategic plan. “It was developed by faculty and staff, our trustees, alumni, community stakeholders, and most importantly, our students. Our board of trustees is fully committed to creating this opportunity for a new community of learners. UPIKE will provide the financial and human resources necessary to have one of the finest colleges of optometry in the nation.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for optometrists is expected to grow faster than average nationally, by 33 percent through 2020, adding more than 11,000 new positions. Health care reform and an aging population are also expected to impact the need.

During a press conference to announce the college, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear congratulated the university on its “monumental accomplishment.” He said, “As more people access health care through Medicaid and other programs and as our population ages, the need for medical professionals, including quality optometrists, is expected to increase. With this new challenge and this new college, UPIKE will help meet that need.”

Beshear said the Kentucky College of Optometry would continue the momentum of the SOAR initiative (Shaping Our Appalachian Region) and similar projects designed to boost Eastern Kentucky’s economic development. He also announced $1.5 million in Appalachian Regional Commission grant funding for the new college.