On July 1st, 2013, AOSA and Salus University, home to the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, marked the beginning of a new dimension to public health in optometric education by offering five $10,000 scholarships to optometry students across the nation!
The mission of the AOSA is to “improve the visual welfare and health of the public, to promote the profession of optometry, and to enhance the education and welfare of optometry students.” With this in mind, AOSA and Salus University joined forces to provide an “integrative and interdisciplinary strategy” to address health care needs through education offered to qualified and motivated optometry students interested in pursuing a dual degree in Public Health. All students from all optometry schools are eligible for the scholarship. Candidates for the scholarship must have strong academic standing and receive the support of their Dean to participate in the MPH at Salus University.
Check out this quick video with students (including past AOSA president James Deom) explain why the MPH program benefits students and their future careers:
On October 2014, Susan Ly, an intern at the University of the Incarnate Word Rosenberg School of Optometry (UIWRSO) was the first to receive this scholarship to obtain a Master of Public Health (MPH) through Salus’ web-based program (most optometry schools do not offer dual degrees)! As the current UIWRSO AOSA American Public Health Association (APHA) Local Liaison, Susan learned about the opportunity offered by AOSA-Salus through the 2014-2015 AOSA APHA National Liaison.
I had the opportunity to interview Ms. Ly and further learn about this program to be able to share with you how an MPH positively contributes to a degree in optometry and our society:
Ms. Ly’s interest in the MPH stems from being part of public health programs while growing up in Los Angeles, California, “Public health has positively impacted my family and my life. I believe that obtaining a MPH will make me a better physician and that I will learn how to appropriately serve patients, especially those in need.”
Susan briefly explained what the admission process was like during the summer semester of her third year: “Applying in my third year was just right for me because it allowed me to focus on my core studies the first two years in optometry school and I had some clinical experience under my belt.”
She describes how Salus University has a policy that allows students to take a course (at a reduced scholarship rate) before students formally get accepted into the program: “it’s a quick way to sample the program without going through the entire process.” However, Susan was certain this is what she wanted to do and completed the necessary paperwork which reflected where she is in her optometric career. “I love to talk to my patients; I now see the barriers that some patients face just getting to the exam. Some patients have to sacrifice other healthcare services for medications or a pair of glasses. This is what I wanted to change and I never want to lose sight of that. I look forward to all the wonderful things that this program will offer in my career as an optometrist and all the things that I can do with my new-found leadership from the MPH!”
Susan shared with us what Dr. William A. Monaco, OD, PhD, Associate Program Director, said in response to the many questions that she had during this process: “The Salus MPH program started in 2010, and was specifically created to provide public health education to under-represented professions within public health, such as, optometry, audiology, physician assistance and other allied professionals. It is “Public Health,” so it is not specifically an “optometric” public health program, however, because our mission encourages optometrists to seek the degree, we do have a number of optometrists currently enrolled in our program. The entire program is 42 semester credits, is part-time, and should take about two and one-half years to complete; however, students set the pace of completion based on their other academic responsibilities and clinical workload – we allow up to five years to complete the program.”