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College of Optometry molds students for future in healthcare

Published 12/3/18

Megan DuBuc

TNE Writer

NSU is leading the way in the field of optometry and strives for quality care for all patients in and around Oklahoma. NSU offers a Doctor of Optometry degree, which is based out of the Tahlequah campus, but students can work in the program from the Broken Arrow and Muskogee campuses as well.

Students can expect to be in the program for four years with increasing amounts of time in the NSU clinic getting hands-on training. This is after they have already completed an undergraduate degree. Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry’s goal is to mold students into effective future members of a high functioning health care organization. To accomplish that goal, students are expected to complete an extensive schooling regimen.

NSUOCO is one of only 23 schools of optometry in the entire United States. The NSUOCO has 11 locations around northeastern Oklahoma. NSU has partnered with the Cherokee Nation and other tribal nations who provide the college with patients. This partnership leads to NSU optometry clinics seeing thousands of patients a year.

“We’ll see between 55,000 to 60,000 patients a year,” said Brooke Johnson, optometry program representative. “We have different clinics available to patents to provide comprehensive eyecare. We have a contacts clinic, a surgery clinic, visual therapy, specialty care and much more so that patients who come to NSU receive complete care.”

Johnson said NSUOCO students will sometimes do screenings for other students on campus for special occasions. The NSUOCO clinic will also see students and members of other tribes through doctor referrals.

“The students who we see on campus typically get a referral from the Northeastern Oklahoma Community Health Centers,” said Jennifer Jones, coordinator of clinical management. “Like with red-eye or any type of eye injury or anything. Students will go there first and then we can see students that way.”

The optometry program has prerequisite courses students must complete before applying. On top of classes, students need to apply to Optometry Centralized Application Service between July 1 and Feb. 1. Students need to have three letters of recommendation. Students must spend time shadowing a licensed optometrist as well. Students wanting to join the program are eager to apply and be accepted, though.

“I’ve always wanted to do something medical for my career,” said Peyton Turned, Tulsa senior and optometry program applicant. “I shadowed several different medical fields and decided optometry was the path for me. It’s extremely rewarding. Patient interaction is laid back and genuine. I hope to gain the skills to be an optometrist a patient looks forward to seeing. I want to be a servant to patients while also providing the care they need.”

Candice Barber, Oklahoma Medical Eye Group assistant technician, said OMEG will have at least one NSU optometry graduate do a residency every year. Students can work with OMEG for clinic hours required for their degrees.

“Oklahoma is a teaching state, meaning student and unlicensed graduates can still work in the office,” said Barber. “They work with a licensed optometrist overseeing their work their entire residency. It is a great learning experience and gets the resident some real hands-on practice in the field.”

Residencies are not required by NSU for students to receive a degree, but students can learn more about clinic work after their required clinic hours are finished. Either way, students who attend NSUOCO leave with a firm knowledge of the optometric field of medicine.

For more information, visit the NSU Oklahoma College of Optometry website at www.optometry.nsuok.edu/NSUOCOHome. Students can also call NSUOCO Administration 918-444-4000 or email questions to nsuopt@nsuok.edu.


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