Article Date: 11/1/2009

Bridging the Education Gap
From the AOSA

Bridging the Education Gap

Canadian optometry schools are helping students who trained abroad meet local standards, so they can practice in Canada.

By Anjali Kapoor, Treasurer, AOSA

CAN YOU IMAGINE graduating with a Doctor of Optometry degree only to discover you can�t practice in the location you've chosen? This is one of the biggest problems international optometric graduates face today. To put an end to this ongoing problem, the University of Waterloo (UW) School of Optometry in collaboration with the College of Optometrists of Ontario have developed the International Optometric Bridging Program (IOBP) to help optometrists trained outside North America gain the knowledge and skills they need to practice in Canada.

Program Scope

The IOBP gives newcomers the opportunity to improve their optometric education, learn Canadian standards of optometric practice, develop better communication and technical language skills and receive certification or licensing in their field of study. The programs usually last 1 year and exist all across Canada, allowing newcomers to practice in the province of their choice.

Recently, the Canadian government allocated a large amount of grant money for these programs to help optometrists who trained abroad fulfill requirements and meet Canadian standards of practice. Because of this financial investment, foreign doctors pay a minimal fee to enroll in the programs.

Fulfilling Criteria

Internationally trained optometrists must meet eligibility criteria for the bridging programs. For example, a candidate must be licensed or registered to practice optometry outside of Canada. He must have completed 2 years of university undergraduate courses before entering an optometry school and hold a 4-year optometry degree, or hold a 4-year optometry degree and have 2 years of optometric work experience outside of Canada.

Candidates undergo an assessment of their academic credentials, language skills and knowledge of optometry. After the assessment, candidates enter either a 6-week orientation program (Bridging One) or a 1-year academic program (Bridging Two) to prepare for the Canadian Standard Assessment in Optometry licensing exam — a standardized test (similar to the national boards in the United States) that will allow them to practice in Canada.

Networking Possibilities

Another important aspect of the bridging programs is that they create networking opportunities for optometrists who are new to Canada. The programs enable optometrists to visit a variety of different practices and meet colleagues in the community. And since graduates from different countries receive various optometric training, internationally trained optometrists can diversify their practices by partnering with doctors specializing in pathology, vision therapy, pediatrics and other subspecialties.

Training to Practice in Canada

The IOBP provides a great opportunity for optometrists trained outside of North America to practice in Canada. For more information about the program, visit nOD

Anjali Kapoor is a 4th year optometry school student at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Can. She serves as treasurer for the AOSA. You can reach her at

Optometric Management, Issue: November 2009