The New England College of Optometry recently hosted its first Industry & Employer Relations Committee Meeting, which hosted roughly 75 participants from private practice optometry, corporate optometry, optometric alliances, academia and various industry sectors, such as manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, managed vision care, telemedicine and the media.
The idea behind the two-day meeting was to “lift up the hood and show what’s really going on” in optometric education, says NECO President and CEO Howard Purcell, O.D., F.A.A.O.
The two-day meeting was comprised of tours of facilities, presentations on didactic education (by Erik Weissberg, O.D., vice president and dean, academic affairs), clinical education (Kristin Brown, O.D., associate dean, clinical affairs), student life (Sandra Mohr, EdD, dean, academic resources and administration), Eyetech, the college’s center for innovation (Gary Chu, O.D., M.P.H., vice president of professional affairs) and faculty and student panels moderated by Dr. Chu.
Throughout the meeting, both presenters and attendees discussed a broad set of issues facing optometric education, including changing demographics, academic demands, clinical expectations, the student experience, mental health obstacles and student debt. All the participants “worked corroboratively in the best interest of the future of optometry,” says Dr. Purcell.
“We left our competitive side at the door and fo-cused on continuous improvement that can benefit all of us,” he says.
By bringing attendees and stakeholders from all aspects of the profession together, NECO hopes to solve some of the challenges in preparing students for the profession, says Dr. Purcell. Next steps for the committee include developing subgroups that will take a deep dive into key issues and opportunities, focusing on clear direction and actionable solutions, he says.
“Our colleagues are ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work,” Dr. Purcell says. “They want to be part of the solution.”
Looking at the big picture, Dr. Purcell sees an opportunity to be “one profession connected through partnerships.” OM