Everybody knows that medical schools serve an important role in society. Because doctors deal with life or death scenarios, they must know what they’re doing. There’s absolutely no room for error when we’re talking about human health, including optometry.
For that reason, future optometrists must think seriously about where they’ll learn their trade. They’ll want to work through a program that features first-rate faculty members, state-of-the-art equipment, and strong teaching schools. For those resources, you might immediately think of New York or California. And while Texas is an equally large state, one finds only two optometry schools there.
But before you write off the Lone Star State for your education as an optometrist, take a look at the quality of these two schools. Both schools boast incredibly high “ultimate pass rates,” as reported by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry. These rates indicate how many people in a program pass the professional organization’s exams, showing that students have the training they need to enter the profession.
Of course, most future optometrists aren’t interested in just passing the exam. They want a rich educational experience, gaining a wide range of experience to prepare for a fulfilling career as an optometrist.
2. University of the Incarnate Word Rosenberg School of Optometry (San Antonio, TX)
With only two available options, one could be forgiven for thinking that Texas had no options for those who want to study optometry while strengthening their faith. However, the University of the Incarnate Word’s Rosenberg School of Optometry trains future optometrists from a Christian worldview. As a faith-based institution, Rosenberg emphasizes its students’ individual development to create compassionate doctors.
The school achieves these goals through its Health Professional Personal Development Pathway, which weaves throughout specific courses taken during students’ first two years of professional study. In addition to workshops and lectures, these courses discuss issues such as mission, social justice, human dignity, self-care, and more.
These principles are disseminated through the school’s first-class faculty. Rosenberg boasts a full complement of distinguished, talented, and caring instructors, with years of industry experience.
With a student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1, the school prides itself as an institution where students matter and earn recognition from their teachers. The faculty follows the example of their Dean, Dr. Timothy A. Wingert.
A Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry and a Diplomate in the Section on Public Health and Environmental Vision, Dr. Wingert is a founding member of the European Academy of Optometry and Optics and is the only optometrist to be named a traditional J. William Fulbright Scholar through the program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.
Dr. Wingert is just one of many faculty members who commit to teaching with an active research agenda. In recent years, Rosenberg faculty have contributed to articles published in some of the top publications in the field, including the Journal of Optometric Education, Clinical and Experimental Optometry, and PLoS ONE.
At international conferences, they present papers on subjects such as stem-like cancer cell populations in high-grade pediatric glioma, changes in conflict handling preferences of health professional students, and the efficacy of MiBo Thermoflo in the treatment of meibomian gland dysfunction.
Furthermore, faculty members have won awards such as the Korb-Exford Dry Eye Career Development Grant awarded from the American Academy of Optometry Foundation to Dr. Srihari Narayanan in 2017 and the Educator of the Year Award presented by the Texas Optometric Association to Dr. Jeffrey Rabin in 2015.
In addition to this excellent faculty, Rosenberg also has the University of Incarnate Word Eye Institute within the San Antonio Medical Center. Doctors of optometry and clinical staff perform comprehensive eye exams for patients. Additionally, the institute features specialty clinics for contact lenses, low vision concerns, ocular disease, and vision therapy. The Institute’s state-of-the-art facility incorporates traditional patient care with modern clinical technology, including some of the most technologically advanced equipment for diagnosing eye disease.
But perhaps the most unique element of the school is the Rosenberg School of Optometry Gallery. The Gallery houses artwork that enriches the educational experience of students and provides classes. Each show features 6-10 pieces, and the shows last from 4-8 weeks.
The value of these elements can be measured in several ways, including awards and achievements. In 2020, Rosenberg student Chantelle Roman won the national Alcon Case Report award for her study “Treating Presbyopia and Cataract – Using Trifocal IOLs to Conquer the Vision Lifecycle.” The school regularly sends high-ranking student teams to the annual Essilor Academic Challenge, in which attendees are quizzed on optometry topics.
But the most critical measure of Rosenberg’s success is the way students leave the program to enter their careers. According to the school, 79% of the class of 2020 the NBEO exam on their first try, with 89% ultimately passing the exam by the end of their program.
As these facts indicated, Rosenberg is a unique program. Anyone who wants to study optometry while putting their Christian beliefs into action will be well-served by the school, ready to go into a life of service.
1. University of Houston College of Optometry (San Antonio, TX)
As part of the third-largest institution of higher learning in the state of Texas, the University of Houston has unprecedented resources to support its College of Optometry and its mission. The school exists to advance the field of optometry, vision science, and clinical care. In both its teaching and research, UH Optometry values unparalleled excellence, integrity, and compassion. All of these attributes embody the school’s slogan, “Enhancing Vision for Life.”
UH Optometry offers a variety of degree paths, including a Doctor of Optometry, as well as MS and Ph.D. The Doctor of Optometry runs for four years and trains students in examining, diagnosing, treating, and managing disorders of the visual systems. Subjects include everything from vision testing to managing complex eye problems to diagnosing systemic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. The program provides everything from theoretical learning in classrooms to hands-on experience in the school’s clinics.
A graduate degree from UH Optometry is an excellent choice for those who prefer research and teaching over the practice. The degree programs prepare students to explore avenues of research in academic, industrial, and professional settings. Working alongside faculty mentors, students examine the latest in normal and abnormal visual processes, diseases and disorders of the eye, visual optics, and more.
All graduates of UH Optometry and other accredited schools and colleges of optometry have access to residency programs. The programs can be within the school or elsewhere, including Houston, Dallas and Ft Worth, TX, Phoenix, AZ, and Denver, CO. With these programs, optometrists gain advanced training and knowledge, learning through direct patient care, scholarly and didactic activities also contribute to the development of the advanced clinical competencies.
No matter which degree program they are in, students benefit from the three research centers at UH Optometry. The Texas Eye Research and Technology Center (TERTC) investigates contact lens wear and other elements of ocular health and pathology, including studies on the effects of refractive surgery and the environment on ocular tissues. At the Visual Optics Institute (VOI), scientists, clinicians, and optometry students advance their understanding of the optics of the eye, partially through research instrumentation used to diagnose and treat eye diseases. The Ocular Surface Institute brings together clinical and basic scientists to advance the field of ocular surface health within its world-class translational research center.
These institutes support the school’s interdisciplinary research teams in their explorations of normal and abnormal visual processes, inherited and acquired diseases, and disorders of the eye and visual pathways. These teams employ cellular, molecular, behavioral, and optical approaches to prevent or minimize vision loss. Thanks to funding from the National Eye Institute, federal agencies, private interests, and individual donors.
With these institutes at its disposal, UH Optometry pursues projects such as the Myopia Control Initiative (MCI). With an environment conducive to collaborative research, the MCI seeks to disseminate myopia control strategies through optometric education and clinical services. 4th-year students in UH Optometry can take an elective course in comprehensive myopia through the MCI, gaining access to current, in-depth knowledge about optical and pharmaceutical treatments for myopia control.
Additionally, students develop their skills through hands-on training in the school’s University Eye Institute, the Molly and Doug Barnes Vision Institute, five community clinics throughout Texas, as well as UH Optometry Mobile Eye Institute. In the recently established Surgery Center, students learn from experienced eye surgeons and have access to state-of-the-art technology, including the bladeless LenSx laser.
With these facilities and resources, UH Optometry fully prepares its students to go on to great things. Over 90% of the school’s students pass the NBEO, with a 90.11% pass rate for the class of 2020. Recently, fourth-year student Connor Christensen won the American Optometric Student Association’s 2020 Optometry Student Bowl. His fellow fourth-year student Isabel Deakins won the Johnson & Johnson Vision Award of Excellence in Contact Lens Patient Care.