China is experiencing a major public health crisis in terms of eye and vision care, with nearly half the population suffering from nearsightedness. In hopes of providing China with more eye care specialists to fight this growing epidemic, Pacific University’s College of Optometry will launch two new programs in 2018 designed to help train and further the educations of Chinese eye care professionals and students.
“What we’re doing is collaborating with universities and major eye hospital systems in China to help them better educate eye doctors,” Jennifer Coyle, dean of the College of Optometry said. “And to help them provide eye care access to all people in the country.”
According to Coyle, Dr. Shun-Nan Yang, an associate professor from the College of Optometry, played a very influential role in helping Pacific connect with universities and eye care hospitals in China.
“Dr. Shun-Nan Yang was the one who developed the connections in China and discovered this great need for care,” Coyle said. “We also had several faculty members go over to China for five days to do lectures, and we realized we could really help them develop optometry and eye care.”
Now, after several years of planning and communications with partnered eye care universities and hospitals in China, the College of Optometry is ready to launch its new programs and welcome to the Forest Grove campus a wave of Chinese eye care professionals and students.
“The first program is a continuing education type program for existing eye doctors in China, who will come here for one to three months starting in April,” Coyle said. “We will have three one-month-long block specialty programs, and the areas we will be training them in is vision therapy, pediatrics, advanced contact lenses and clinic management.”
Then, in August, the College of Optometry will introduce its new three plus-one program. Undergraduate students from China, who have attained three years of optometry or vision science training, will come to Pacific for a block curriculum of 44 credits in optometry over the course of a year.
“The students will live in the resident halls and be sharing meals with the other undergraduate students in the University Center,” Coyle said. “But all of their classes will be in Jefferson Hall, and be taught by the optometry faculty in English.”
The Chinese students who complete the yearlong program will in turn receive a baccalaureate in vision science from Pacific, with additional honors possibly being awarded to them by their home universities. Pacific has signed memorandum of
understanding for the undergraduate program with only four universities in China so far, including the Tianjin Vocational Institute, NanKai University, Shenzhen University and the Shandong University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
According to Coyle, the program will welcome 30 to 40 students in its first year, with a growth plan to reach 80 students by the fifth year.
“We wanted to start with a relatively small number of people and do it really well, make sure we can accommodate it in our environment and make sure that we are training them in a way that is going to be most helpful when they get back,” Pacific President Lesley Hallick said. “We also wanted to start a little bit slow, see how it works, and make any improvements and adjustments we need to as we go.”
Hallick said the new programs have already sparked interest from other universities and hospitals in China, with several institutions already expressing intent to partner with Pacific and the College of Optometry in the future.
“It’s a very exciting opportunity, for a lot reasons,” Hallick said. “It fits our niche, its revenue generating, which of course is never a bad thing, and you’re building on the expertise you already have in an area that really needs it.”
The startup costs for the workshop and baccalaureate in vision science has been fully funded by the Eyeis Group in China, who fronted $750,000 for the projects.