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Ferris makes case for new Optometry building

BIG RAPIDS – Members of the Michigan legislature’s Joint Capital Outlay Committee recently heard testimony from Ferris State University President David Eisler and Dr. Mark Swan, chief of pediatrics and binocular vision services at Ferris’ Michigan College of Optometry and president of the Michigan Optometric Association, that construction of a new facility to house a Center for Collaborative Healthcare Education to include the MCO remains a top funding priority for the University.

The University has already funded and completed the programming phase for such a facility. The requested $26.9 million in state funding would allow Ferris to begin the construction phase of a modern health-care building offering state-of-the art eye and vision care, and supporting collaborative study in health education. To date, more than $1.25 million has been pledged in support of operating and matching funds for the new facility, in addition to a $1 million gift from the Dow Foundation.

As the only college of optometry in Michigan, Eisler said a new facility is critical to the MCO’s ability to continue to provide and support access to high quality eye care throughout the state.

“Students being educated for the health professions should be trained in an environment that, as much as possible, is similar to that in which they will function after graduation. They should be exposed to a wide variety of patients, utilize state-of-the-art equipment and learn to work with support personnel and other health providers in this era of managed care. Patients treated by our students deserve a facility that will allow us to provide them state-of-the-art care,” Eisler said.

A residence hall built in 1967 and converted in 1977 currently houses the MCO and does not accommodate full-size classroom or laboratory space. A new auditorium, classrooms, wet/dry laboratories and clinical areas of a new facility would not only be available for MCO students but by students and faculty from the Colleges of Allied Health Sciences and Pharmacy, helping these colleges to address aged facilities and overcrowded areas, as well.

“With the new facility, admissions will be expanded from seven to 50 students annually. Ultimately, the number of optometrists prepared for the state of Michigan could be doubled, helping to address a growing critical shortage of practitioners,” Eisler added.

The University anticipates that with a new facility the current number of patient encounters in the eye and vision care clinic, more than 19,450 annually, will increase by at least 10,000 per year. Beyond its immediate clinic service area, the MCO participates in a number of programs for low-income families and needy children. They have conducted clinics for migrant field workers and recently created a community-based eye clinic in Baldwin.

A proposed Center for Lifelong Learning and Competency would utilize distance/Web-based technology to provide optometrists throughout Michigan with opportunities for continuing education on the latest developments in the field.

Eisler said Ferris has plans to begin this project immediately once funding is secured. The project has been a top building priority for Ferris since 1999.