1. Is it 100 percent certain that UNC Pembroke will build an optometry
No, we must have a proposal for the School of Optometry approved by the Office of the President of the University of North Carolina system. If UNC approves our proposal, then we will move forward to convince the political leadership of North Carolina and the optometric profession that we can build and operate one of the best, high quality schools of optometry in the United States to serve this underserved region.
2. Why did UNCP choose to build a school of optometry?
We studied the coverage of optometry schools in the U.S. and realized that there is no school of optometry between Philadelphia, Pa., and Birmingham, Ala., or between Miami, Fla., and Memphis, Tenn. North and South Carolina have fewer doctors of optometry (O.D.s) per capita than the national average and fewer per capita than the American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends. We further believe that with a large number of O.D.s retiring in the next 20 years, with a large number of aging patients with more eye care needs, and with a university system that is dedicated to delivering only the highest quality educational programs, we can serve a real need for eye care in the Southeastern United States.
3. What is the timeline for the completion of construction and the opening of the school?
If the proposed school of optometry is approved, we will open in fall 2007 and graduate the first cohort of students in spring 2011.
4. How does the University plan to distinguish the school from other optometry schools (i.e. faculty, facilities, technology)?
We propose to offer the finest, state-of-the-art, clinically-based optometric education in the country. Further, we serve a student body that is highly diverse, and we are located in rural America. Therefore, we can produce graduates who are clinically expert, who are more diverse than any graduating optometric class in the country, and who are trained for rural practice.
5. How soon does the University plan to hire faculty and other staff?
We will recruit regional optometrists who are well-trained and have an aptitude for teaching. Further, we believe that a location in North Carolina near the Atlantic Coast and near a rich network of educational and social amenities will make this school of optometry a desirable location for many new - as well as experienced – faculty members.
6. How many optometry students does the University anticipate per class?
We plan to enroll 25 students per class. That is about the same number of students that the State of North Carolina pays to send out of state each year for optometric education. Therefore, we hope that a significant number of those students would choose to stay in their home state to complete an O.D. degree.
7. Does the University have a response to the significant percentage of the optometric community that believes the field of optometry is overcrowded?
We believe that a serious problem exists in the supply of optometrists for rural and minority communities in the U.S., particularly in the South. Even though some believe that the overall numbers of optometrists is adequate, they are over-distributed in the urban areas. We also believe that in the next 20 years the number of retiring optometrists and the increased demand for eye care will make room for many more eye care professionals. Finally, we believe that with a small class size of 25, the UNCP School of Optometry will present no threat of over-supplying the market for doctors.