School in Focus: Kentucky College of Optometry (KYCO) – A Little Campus With Big Opportunities

What is Kentucky College of Optometry (KYCO) and what does it have to offer?

This time last year I had all of my schools lined up: I had done the research, created spreadsheets with program specifics, and began working on essays. It wasn’t until I was on OptomCAS submitting other applications that I came across an option for “Kentucky College of Optometry, Coming Soon!” that I found out the number of optometry schools was soon to increase by one. I immediately went to KYCO’s website and began reading.

kycoI watched a welcome video from the Founding Dean, Andrew Buzzelli, OD, which motivated me to continue learning about the program. The vision and mission of KYCO spoke to me because there was a genuine focus on helping the underserved population of Central Appalachia. My discovery of the new optometry program came long after applications had been pouring in to other schools. I sent an inquiry to the college for more information about the program and began working on adding KYCO to my application to-do lists.

This program is all about serving others, which is the driving force behind why I want to be an optometrist. You might be asking yourself, “Why did they choose to put an optometry school here?” Well, “here” is Pikeville, Kentucky, a small, rural community in eastern Kentucky, with just a few thousand people making up the town’s population. The school is part of the University of Pikeville, which is home to several undergraduate and graduate programs, including the Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine (KYCOM). Its location is strategically placed in the heart of Central Appalachia to allow multiple states to be served. This part of the country is where you’ll find some of the highest rates of obesity, diabetes, and blindness due to complications of having diabetic retinopathy.

Kentucky is one of the few states that authorize optometrists to prescribe all routes of administration of pharmaceutical agents (with some exceptions) and perform laser surgery procedures, excluding retina, LASIK and PRK. This will allow the rural population of Central Appalachia and rural America to receive care from optometrists, rather than having to travel at length to see an ophthalmologist for treatment.

kycoWhat is the “KYCO Advantage?”

The idea behind the KYCO Advantage is to start everyone on an even playing field. Like many entering optometry students, you probably have the same computer you used and abused all through your undergraduate career. KYCO has really taken a step above the norm and is providing all students with any and all equipment needed throughout the program. This means laptops, iPads, diagnostic sets, e-textbooks, even associated fees for the National Board Review and the NBEO Part 1, the American Optometry Student Association (AOSA), and the Student Kentucky Optometric Association (SKOA). By ensuring that every student has the tools to succeed, you can focus on learning and developing as an optometrist.

The school’s new 55-million-dollar facility is another part of how the founders plan to make the experience unlike any other. In addition to taking advantage of Kentucky’s expanded scope of practice for optometrists on campus, we will be spending time traveling to different outreach clinics to see patients that might not have easy access to the KYCO clinic.

Are You Saying “Yes” to the Dress?pikeville city park

My decision to accept a spot in the Kentucky College of Optometry’s inaugural class was surprisingly easy. I had multiple interviews at schools all across the U.S., but I cancelled them all once I interviewed at KYCO and was offered a spot. I was nervous that I was making the wrong decision by not interviewing with other programs, but like they say the television show Say Yes to the Dress, “When you find THE dress, you stop looking.” With respect to the faculty, it was obvious they had a passion for being a part of this program because you don’t come to Pikeville for the shopping or big city experience. I had done so much research and spent so much time looking into programs that I knew the minute I left the interview that KYCO had so many things to offer that other schools simply didn’t. Or, simply couldn’t.

The program officially began August 1, so know that I can’t speak from experience yet. But, if you are someone that really wants to focus on serving your community and helping others during your career as an optometrist, KYCO needs to be on your short list of schools, immediately! I think it’s safe to say you’ll be hard-pressed to find another program that has the same dedicated staff, educational opportunities, and the amazing mountain views and activities that KYCO has to offer.

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