NECO Faculty, Students, and Stakeholders Examine Opportunities in Education

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BOSTON, Mass.—With a stated goal of "Preparing Today's Optometrists for Tomorrow's Optometry," the New England College of Optometry (NECO) convened a unique meeting here earlier this week to engage NECO students, faculty and stakeholders from the optometry and optical industry community to examine trends in optometric education. NECO faculty and students provided insight about curriculum evolution, student life, and the four-year educational journey to earn an OD degree. The invited guests, 75 attendees representing over 45 companies and media partners, included representatives of ASCO (Association of Schools & Colleges of Optometry) and the American Academy of Optometry. "The goal was to take part in an open dialogue to better understand the issues encountered by employers and industry with the ultimate goal of continuous improvement to better preparing students for the future," according to Howard Purcell, OD, FAAO, president and CEO of NECO.

Gary Chu, OD, MPH, NECO's VP professional affairs, hosted the program which took place over two days at the college's main campus on Beacon Street and its clinical care and training facility on the Boston University campus. Stated Dr. Purcell, "The purpose of the program was to expose the current opportunities and challenges in optometric education so that we can all be part of the solution. A students and faculty panel fielded questions from the attendees while our administration shared details about our academic program, clinical program and student services support. The afternoon was spent in diverse breakout groups digging into the key challenges and potential solutions. For NECO, it's all about preparing today's optometrist for tomorrow's optometry. The only way to fully achieve this goal is to partner together."

He added, "We are overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and support we received. Our focus now is to follow up on the opportunities discussed with the hopes of making this an annual event. I am grateful to all of our industry, employer and media partners who have joined us in this journey. It is clear that together we can do great things."
 

The program included a tour of the college and a dinner, along with a tour of the clinical training center and Commonwealth Practice, and several overviews. These included didactic education, exploring the educational demands of a growing profession, from scientific discovery to increased scope of practice, an overview of clinical education, looking at balancing diverse clinical education experiences with meeting the needs of practice and patients, and an overview of student life. Panels of NECO faculty and students addressed issues and breakout groups also examined trends in education and scope of practice options today and going forward.

The College's Innovation Center, called NECO EYEtech, is currently being developed.