College of Optometry to Help China Address Public Health Problem

Pacific University is embarking on an ambitious effort to help China address the large-scale public health problem of myopia.

Beginning this spring, Pacific's College of Optometry will offer a comprehensive continuing education program to provide additional eye care training for current medical practitioners from China. Later in the year, Pacific also will begin a bachelor’s degree program in partnership with Chinese universities for optometry students based there.

More than half of China’s 1.4 billion people suffer from myopia (nearsightedness), yet less than 5 percent of China’s health practitioners are adequately trained in eye healthcare to treat it and other vision problems.

The problem is even more glaring with the country's younger population, as nearly 79 percent of Chinese children are nearsighted by age 19, with nearly one in five considered severely myopic. In rural China, only one in six children who need corrective lenses actually has them.

The concept of early or well-child health care is new to China and the optometric education has been limited. Comprehensive vision services, including vision therapy and rehabilitation, as well as advanced contact lens applications and modern optometric clinic management, are lacking throughout the country.

“Our primary goal is to help improve eye care practice and overall vision health in China by providing evidence-based optometry education to licensed doctors, practitioners and aspiring medical students, so that they can return home and provide comprehensive eye care to their patients,” said Pacific College of Optometry Dean Dr. Jennifer Coyle.

In April, nearly 50 Chinese-based optometrists and ophthalmologists will travel to Forest Grove for three months of U.S.-style optometry training taught by Pacific faculty. In addition to traditional binocular (two-eye) vision health education, the physicians will be able to take month-long courses in pediatric vision care, advanced contact lens application and clinical operation management. 

In August, Pacific will begin a bachelor of applied vision science degree program exclusively for Chinese optometry students who are enrolled at one of several partner institutions including Tianjin Vocational Institute, NanKai University and Shandong Medical University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. These students will spend one year of their four-year programs at Pacific, living and studying on the Forest Grove Campus.

The initial class of the degree program will consist of 30 to 35 students, with a goal enrollment of 80 by the fifth year of the program in fall 2022. All courses will be taught in English with the assistance of bilingual teaching assistants.

The new offerings are the result of partnerships that Pacific University has built with the universities in China and with Eyeis Group, a China-based healthcare organization committed to protecting the health of human eyes. Eyeis has committed $750,000 thus far to the initiatives.

The Pacific University College of Optometry was originally founded in 1921 as the North Pacific College of Optometry. It became part of Pacific University and the Forest Grove Campus in 1945, and produces comprehensive practitioners with expertise in general optometry, contact lenses, low vision, vision therapy, sports vision and ocular disease.

Founded in 1849, Pacific University is a diverse learning community offering a unique combination of undergraduate, graduate and professional programs in the arts and sciences, education, business, optometry and the health professions.

Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018