It has been 32 years since I had set foot on the campus of University of Houston College of Optometry. On a recent visit, I was taken on a grand tour and whilst I expected things to be different, they sure were.
Here are some of the highlights:
Binocular Indirect Ophthalmoscopy is one of the more difficult techniques to master and it is especially hard finding a volunteer who is prepared to let you burn his macula for long periods. This challenge has been solved by technology. The programme is called eyesi and it involves a dummy with very willing eyes to practice on. It can be set to display any type of retinal pathology the students wish to detect. It is of course, just as handy to do Direct Ophthalmoscopy on it.
The School has a fully equipped Surgery Centre with a visiting ophthalmologist. It is joined to a student gallery, giving students a clear view of the procedure through a large glass window.
This is not new, but it is worth pointing out that during the four-year course, every student will dilate every patient they will ever see. Pathology is referred to a Speciality Clinic, with an ophthalmologist in attendance. Fundus photos or OCT scans can be projected to a central digital screen for all to see, without leaving their work stations. Optometry School candidates will typically do a three-year under-graduate course at another institution, before they can enroll for the four-year professional course. Competition for an enrollment is fierce.
Unfortunately, the exchange rate has made it near impossible for South Africans to afford enrolling at an American Optometry School. One of the ways in, is to apply for a Albright Scholarship (see separate article).