Earlier this year the University of the Incarnate Word’s Rosenburg School of Optometry was granted the status of “accredited” by the Accreditation Council of Optometric Education (ACOE). The status given by the ACOE means the institution has been evaluated to provide the quality education that is necessary of optometric practice. The college is located in San Antonio, Texas. There are now 23 institutions accredited by the ACOE that prepared well-qualified graduates into the profession of optometry.
On May 10th, 2013 the university had the honor to walk their inaugural class into graduation from the newly accredited institution. The class of 58 students, earning their Doctor of Optometry (O.D.), honored the college by being the institution’s first graduating class. This is a monumental event for the school and it paves the way to a bright future for the college and the university as a whole.
OptometryStudents.com was given the opportunity to speak to Dr. Andrew Buzzelli, Dean and Professor at the Rosenberg School of Optometry. Dr. Buzzelli has held many positions in all aspects of optometry prior to his position at RSO, from teaching at several accredited schools to serving in the military as the Assistant to the Air Force Surgeon General. Last year, the Texas Optometric Association (TOA) named Dr. Buzzelli Educator of the year. His diverse experience in the field has proven to be valuable to the institution.
OS: How has your experience working along with different schools prepared you for being dean of a new optometry school?
When you look at the quality of the institutions where I previously held teaching positions, the State University of New York State College of Optometry, Georgian Court University, and Salus University, you know that these are premier institutions in optometric education. Working in these dominions of excellence provided me with what every individual needs to arrive at a successful career in any chosen life path – great mentors. The quality of the faculty and administration at these schools provided me with the mentors I needed to develop not only in my optometric educational skills but also in my optometric leadership skills.
OS: What were the steps involved for the process of gaining the status of accreditation institutions by the ACOE?
Achieving the status of “accredited” by the American Council on Optometric Education is a very complex process involving many different steps. ACOE gives you very clear guidelines about what the accrediting standards are. They give you very complete examples of what you need to do to complete the steps. Selecting the people who will be involved with how the institution’s faculty, curriculum, governance processes, financial stability, and quality of the education of the interns achieves each of the eight standards is the key to a successful accreditation. ACOE is basically an open book examination in which you get to show that the interns are in fact receiving what they will need in order to provide excellence in optometric care for each patient they come in contact with. The accreditation is earned by the faculty, staff and interns of each institution.
OS: How will the increasing number of accredited optometry schools affect the future of optometry?
The increasing number of optometry schools is not as important a factor in the future of optometry as many give it credit for. The perception is that increasing the number of schools means increasing the number of Doctors of Optometry, which means increased competition and decreased opportunity for optometrists. This type of thinking is analogous to reasoning that if you have too many books in the library then the library is in danger of closing because not all of the books will get to be read and some books will not be read at all. This thinking doesn’t meet any test of logic. The increased number of optometric graduates will provide a highly trained and service-oriented health force who will treat expanding numbers of patients, conduct the much needed increase in critically necessary vision science research, and add to the supply of doctors who will become the faculty of future generations of optometrists.
All of these men and women will become the legions who join together under the banner of organized optometry to demand the legislative authority to practice as we see fit, and not as we are allowed by unregulated competitors. There is certainly no shortage of patients as you look down the road in health care. The increase in access to primary medical care and the increase in the pharmacological and technical support of life will produce more patients then we will ever be able to produce enough optometrists to serve. Carefully increasing the number of optometry schools adhering to the very demanding standards of the ACOE will simply continue to evolve the field of optometry as the premier provider of primary eye care around the world. No I don’t believe “the optometry sky is falling,” I believe the dawn is just beginning.
OS: Why do you believe the profession of optometry is growing?
The previous question pretty much answers why the profession of optometry will continue to grow. It is growing because it is an ideal work complement to your life. Your career is not your life, it supports your life. Optometry provides a support to your life, which is rewarding and fulfilling from an emotional reward as well as a financial reward. You are not only blessed to take care of the person who seeks your immediate health care guidance but there are days when you will care for generations of the same families, as has happened in my own optometry practices. It is among the most rewarding of all professions because you get to practice the medical aspects of optometry along with the immediate gratification of the vision correction treatment protocols of optometry. It is easy for anyone inside the profession to understand why this is such a wonderful path for an individual to choose for the vocation segment of their lives. It is no wonder that optometry has been endorsed by a number of independent institutions and research groups as one of the outstanding career paths in the country.
OS: We would like to congratulate you and your institution on graduating your inaugural class! What do you hope for these newly appointed O.D.s?
I hope for our graduates that they understand what it means to be a health care provider representing The University of The Incarnate Word. These graduates are emblazoned with the personal mark that the Incarnate Word Intern is responsible to provide not only excellence every day and every exam with their optometric skill set, but they are challenged to live the Incarnate Word Mission of social justice, human dignity, community service, and personal growth. These individuals are educated and mentored in their development as compassionate doctors as well as the leaders of optometry. Beyond hope, I know that our inaugural graduating class will experience the thrill attached to living the Incarnate Word mission in their professional and their personal lives.