Theory of the Curriculum and Patient Care
The completion of the Doctor of Optometry degree requires four academic years and two summer terms comprising 172 semester hours of study. The degree Bachelor of Science in Vision Science is granted following completion of the first year of the professional program, provided the student has completed all of the University distribution requirements and does not hold a prior bachelor's degree. First year courses cover the basic health and vision sciences which serve as foundation for the clinical sciences. Included are a broad range of courses: human anatomy and physiology, ocular anatomy, ocular physiology, neuroanatomy; geometrical optics, physical optics, physiological and visual optics; advanced microbiology and immunology, as well as, courses in health services organization and policy. Students also begin their clinical experience in the second semester in a clinical simulation laboratory with fellow students serving as "patients."
Second year students begin their first direct patient care experience during the spring semester. A close relationship, achieved through a one-to-one faculty to student ratio, provides for detailed observation, evaluation, and feedback on the student's early clinical performance. Clinical experiences include interviews, examinations, and an understanding of diagnostic techniques and treatment services, including the prescription of spectacle lenses. Lectures and laboratories build upon the previous knowledge from basic health and vision science courses and introduce new topics including: general and ocular pathology, pharmacology, ophthalmic and environmental optics, contact lens optics, strabismus and vision therapy, and clinical case-study reviews to sharpen decision making in primary care diagnosis, management and treatment.
Third year courses focus on contact lenses, assessment and management of vision and developmental problems in children, care of the elderly and low vision patients, applied neuro-optometry and use of therapeutic pharmacological agents in the management of ocular and systemic disease. Clinical practice continues in primary care, pediatrics and contact lenses with the student assigned to 16 hours of clinic per week to include direct patient care under the supervision of and in consultation with the student's clinical professor who monitors the progress and provides guidance where necessary. A low student to faculty ratio is a fundamental strength in the third year clinical training program. Patients identified as needing specialty diagnostic or treatment services are seen by third and fourth year students and the faculty. Vision screenings for all athletic teams on campus and students living in university residence halls provide further supervised practice, and help to promote vision and eye health wellness within the University community. The coordination of didactics with clinic during the third year serve to enhance the student's communication skills, empathy, sensitivity to patient needs and concerns, and awareness of the role of the optometrist in the health care system. Patient record audits sensitize the student to the requirements for proper and complete record keeping and the need to continually monitor the quality of patient care.
All didactic courses are offered within the first three years of the curriculum, freeing the entire fourth year for a concentrated clinical experience. Except for the web seminar course`, administrative conferences and senior research projects, emphasis is on real time clinical activities. The fourth professional year extends over a full calendar year divided into three 15 week rotations. Some students elect to spend one rotation in residence at the Campus Optometry Clinic, while electing two others from among the affiliated external clinic sites which include the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers, health maintenance organizations, military medical facilities, ophthalmic co-management consultation centers, State Department of Corrections facilities, and optometric and ophthalmalogic private practices. Fourth year externships provide experience working in multi-disciplinary health care settings, increase the number and diversity of patient care experiences, and broaden the awareness of factors affecting health care delivery in our society. Students also spend clinic time in specialty clinics, including: pediatric primary care and developmental vision analysis, infant clinic, medical eye care (including urgent and emergency on-call service), geriatric primary care, low vision service, contact lens care, and advanced primary care practice. Low student to faculty ratios continue to be maintained in both on-campus and off-campus clinical training. Throughout the curriculum the relationships between basic science and clinical science, theory and practice, are continually emphasized.
The network of affiliated sites offers quantity and diversity of patient care experiences and settings that greatly broaden the students' clinical training in the fourth year. Off-campus experiences also allow the student to gain a degree of independence from the parent institution and is viewed as advantageous for both individual professional and personal development.
Prior to graduation, students attending the Michigan College of Optometry will typically experience in excess of 1500 patient examinations-an extraordinary number of patient contacts and an exceptional educational opportunity.