Redefining Optometry within the VA
Nearly a decade after community health centers began sprouting up around the country, the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) established the VA Optometry Service and transferred optometrists from the civil service to the physician-dentist personnel system, essentially putting optometrists on equal footing with other medical providers. This opened up opportunities for optometry students to train in VA medical facilities and to gain exposure to patients with a wide range of eye and vision problems, including those related to systemic conditions.
Today, NECO student rotations include VA hospitals, where they gain experience caring for a patient population with complex medical and ocular conditions. Students help treat patients with multiple complex ocular and systemic health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and neurological or cardiac disease.
“In addition to seeing patients with a variety of medical and ocular condition in our hospital-based outpatient clinic, we would see in patients from many specialties, including surgery, medicine, neurology, chronic care, mental health, and spinal cord wards,” says Dr. Barry Fisch, former Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs at NECO.