The College of Optometry offers an innovative Doctor of Optometry program that emphasizes optometric rehabilitation including neuro-optometry. This emerging specialty helps patients who have visual and perceptual problems as a result of brain injury, stroke, physical disability or neurological illness. Our emphasis on optometric rehabilitation also includes vision therapy, low vision rehabilitation, and care for vulnerable populations such as those with developmental disabilities. For more information about our program, please visit our Prospective Students – Doctor of Optometry page.
Our optometry curriculum is a four-year, full-time program leading to the Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree.
The curriculum emphasizes direct hands-on patient care in every semester beginning in the first year and continuing through full-time clinical rotations in the fourth year. The curriculum supports many different learning styles with modes of instruction including lectures, laboratories, small group case-based learning, clinical education, and service learning.
The over-arching themes of the curriculum include:
- Early entry into patient care
- Integration of basic and clinical sciences
- 21st Century Technology
- Interprofessional education in collaboration with other health disciplines
- Preparation for entry-level optometry care along with a special emphasis on neuro-science and neuro-optometry
A number of different instructional methods are used to support optimal teaching and learning. Years one through three of the curriculum include didactic lectures, biomedical laboratories, pre-clinical laboratories, small group learning, clinical education, and service learning. A variety of pedagogical techniques will be used including case-based learning, development of critical thinking techniques, and fostering of clinical thought processes. The fourth and final year of the curriculum consists of full-time patient care experiences.
Because WesternU graduates are expected to practice in all states and regions, they must be prepared for the fullest scope of practice. State optometric practice acts have been considered in the curriculum design. Mastery of advanced diagnostic techniques and cutting-edge clinical skills (as demonstrated through lab proficiencies) will enable WesternU graduates to practice optometry to the fullest scope.
A key goal of the curriculum is to support and encourage collaboration between the various health professions. Interprofessional integration is incorporated into the curriculum in several areas. In the first year of the curriculum, optometry students are enrolled in several didactic courses with the medical, dental, and podiatric students, including:
- Introduction to the Study of Medicine
- Head & Neck Anatomy
- The Molecular and Cellular Basis of Medicine
- Medical Ethics
- Introduction to Disease, Immunity & Therapeutics
- Behavioral Health
Students in the first and second years of the curriculum engage in integrated case-based learning within small groups, which include representatives from each of the health disciplines on the WesternU campus. In the second and third years of the program, students from the College of Optometry are enrolled, along with students from all other health professions, in courses that include a service learning component. The service learning curriculum incorporates the design, implementation, and evaluation of community-based projects such as outreach to elementary schools and senior citizen groups. The service learning courses includes practical applications of health education, public health, epidemiology and biostatistics. The third year of the interprofessional curriculum includes a team-based clinical interaction with standardized patients.
The WesternU College of Optometry has incorporated into its mission a special emphasis on a unique learning opportunity: neuro-optometry. To set the foundation for a deeper understanding of neurological processes, students from the optometry program enroll in the course Neuroscience, which is presented in the medical school curriculum. This course integrates basic science disciplines of embryology, histology, neuroanatomy, biochemistry, physiology and pharmacology within a clinical context. Towards the goal of creating this special emphasis in neuro-optometry, the curriculum also includes didactic and laboratory instruction dedicated to the specialized discipline of neuro-optometric rehabilitation in the third year of the program. Ocular sequelae and visual consequences of neurological disease, along with perceptual problems and techniques for rehabilitation are discussed, as detailed in the course description.
In addition to preparing students for full scope optometric practice, the clinical education curriculum also includes components emphasizing neuro-optometry. The on-campus clinical programs have been developed to include hands-on training in neuro-optometric patient care and community-based opportunities for neuro-optometry, such as in rehabilitation hospitals.