New England College of Optometry 2014-2015 Catalog
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Academic Programs

Doctor of Optometry

Four Year OD Program

This program prepares you for a career as a clinician, researcher or educator. Our unique elective program provides you with the opportunity for advanced education in an area of personal interest with options for pursuing a postgraduate education.

The curriculum of the four-year program is organized and delivered through four departments: Vision Sciences, Biomedical Sciences and Disease, Primary Care, and Specialty and Advanced Care. Each course is developed as one step in a sequence designed to facilitate each student’s mastery of the knowledge and skills required of an optometric professional capable of managing conditions of the human eye and visual system.

The Department of Vision Sciences provides course material leading to an understanding of the theory and application of optics as well as the structure and function of the normal and abnormal visual system. To that end, the content of the vision science curriculum is presented within four general areas: optics, vision testing, binocular vision and visual neuroscience.

The Department of Biomedical Sciences and Disease courses provide the student with an understanding of the normal and abnormal structure and function of the human organism. A background is provided in the following areas:  fundamental anatomical and biochemical mechanisms; physiological, immunological, and pathological processes; the diagnosis, treatment, and management of ocular disease.

The Department of Primary Care provides classroom education, technical workshops, and clinical training to help students develop their patient care skills and to understand the role of optometric care within the greater health care delivery system. Emphasis is placed on balancing scientific knowledge, technical expertise, problem-solving ability and personal interactions to stimulate doctors-in-training to become competent, compassionate, eye care professionals. Clinical assignments are selected based upon their offering diverse patient populations, exposure to state of the art instrumentation, and supervisory faculty who are committed to both patient care and education.

The Department of Specialty and Advanced Care offers courses and clinical programs that encompass the specific background, skills, clinical insights, and patient-management capabilities required of optometrists within the specialized clinical realm of contact lenses, low vision, and pediatric optometry and binocular vision. The curriculum provides a foundation that integrates basic science with clinical science and is directly related to the provision of clinical care of patients within these specialized subject areas.

Clinical experiences enable students to become competent optometric professionals who can integrate scientific knowledge with clinical insights to diagnose, treat, and manage visual and ocular problems and co-manage related systemic conditions. The preceptor-ship method is used throughout the program. It calls for close initial supervision by licensed faculty, with the students assuming more responsibility over time. The role of the preceptor slowly changes from supervisor to consultant. The students’ final year is entirely clinical with assignments to an array of diverse practice settings.

Graduate Programs

M.S. in Vision Science

The Master of Science in Vision Science is designed to provide experience in vision research methodology through the development and execution of an original research project, and completion and defense of a research thesis. The curriculum is based on a total of 36.25 credit hours of study.

antique drawing of cornea

The College seeks to admit students into this program who possess the qualities necessary for success in research. The goal of the program is to train students (especially optometrists) to perform original research in vision science. There are two ways to earn this degree:

Dual OD/MS Degrees

Designed for optometry students who wish to earn a Master of Science (MS) degree while studying for the Doctor of Optometry degree, the MS degree in the dual degree program is available at no additional cost to qualified students who are enrolled in the College’s OD degree program.

Stand-alone MS Degree

Designed for candidates who wish to earn the MS degree without enrolling in the College’s OD degree program. Qualified candidates must have a college-level background in science or a professional degree. This is a single, tuition-based graduate degree program.

The MS program features graduate-level courses, seminars, an original research project, and completion of a thesis with a thesis defense. The dual OD/MS degree is completed within the time frame of the four-year professional degree program and involves modifications to the course sequence in the OD curriculum. The stand-alone MS degree is usually completed in two years.

The Master of Science in Vision Science program is designed to develop the analytical thinking and problem-solving skills needed to be a successful scientist. The program emphasizes research in an area of vision science that is determined by the student’s interests and the expertise of the graduate faculty, as defined by their ongoing research programs.

Students who are accepted into this program will have training in areas not typically available to optometry students. This will provide enhanced career opportunities. MS degree candidates develop skills that can help them contribute new knowledge to the field, help them assess new scientific developments relevant to optometry, and enable them to be more competitive for residencies and academic and industry positions following graduation. The graduates of this program have the potential to become intellectual leaders in the profession.

Graduate Programs Brochure

Curriculum:  An Overview of the Master of Science Program 

Graduate Faculty for the MS Program and Areas of Research

For the application for OD/MS or stand alone MS

OD/PhD Dual Degree Program with Boston University School of Medicine

Program of Study

The Division of Graduate Medical Sciences of the Boston University School of Medicine (GMS), and The New England College of Optometry (NECO) have established a combined Doctor of Optometry (OD) and PhD program. The core curriculum for the proposed program incorporates the professional curriculum of the New England College of Optometry and adds the requisite curriculum of the post-Master’s graduate programs of the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences at the Boston University School of Medicine. This sequence is similar in its programmatic elements to the Boston University MD/PhD program.

Students in the combined degree program will complete the first two years of the optometry professional program. Assuming satisfactory academic performance standards have been met during these two years, the student will then begin the post-Master's Ph.D. curriculum at Boston University as proscribed by the department or program into which they have been admitted. Depending upon the department and the major advisor chosen among the primary faculty, individual trainees of this program can qualify in any of the following disciplines: Anatomy, Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, Genetics and Genomics, Molecular Medicine, Behavioral Neuroscience, Biomedical Neuroscience, Microbiology, Immunology, Pathology, Pharmacology, Physiology, Biophysics or Medical Nutrition Sciences.

Upon completion of this program and satisfactory defense of the dissertation, the student will return to the New England College of Optometry to complete their clinical training. Upon completion of the requirements for the Doctor of Optometry degree, both degrees will be conferred at the respective commencements of the two participating institutions.

Institutional Profiles and Research Facilities

Admissions to the OD/PhD Dual Degree program

The Admissions Committee and the Graduate Studies Committee of the New England College of Optometry will review all applications earmarked for the combined OD/PhD degree program on an early action basis, with a decision by December 15th. OAT scores are required for admission to the professional program

If acceptance into the professional program is recommended, the names will be forwarded to the Admissions Committee of the OD/PhD Program at Boston University School of Medicine, Division of Graduate Medical Sciences. The Admissions Committee for the PhD portion of the combined program will render a decision by February 15th.

Matriculated students at the New England College of Optometry may also be admitted to the combined program during their first professional year by submitting a complete application.

Application for the OD/PhD dual degree program 

Cost of Study for the OD/PhD program

Tuition and fees for the first two years of the OD professional program can be found here:

Tuition for the first year of the BU graduate program is covered through GRASP Credits of the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences. The New England College of Optometry will provide a first year stipend in exchange for laboratory assistant teaching. Following completion of the Ph.D. qualifying examination, continuing student fees are covered by the BU department in which the student is enrolled, while ongoing stipend support is provided by the student's mentor.

Upon completion of the dissertation, annual tuition for the remaining two years of the professional program at NECO will be the same as that which the student would have paid if he/she continued with the class in which they began the professional program.

MS/OD China Program

In November 2000, Wenzhou Medical College and The New England College of Optometry initiated a unique joint degree program providing those completing the program with two degrees: the master of science and doctor of optometry degrees.  The program was specifically created to develop a cadre of knowledgeable and skilled optometrists in China who could assume the highest positions in China’s medical education and health care systems.  The proposal was endorsed by China's Ministry of Education and Ministry of Public Health.  The M.S./O.D. China curriculum combines the A.O.D.P. program and the Master of Science degree with joint clinical externships that include six months in Boston based rotations and six months at Wenzhou Medical College.  Comprehensive accreditation and approval has been received by the American Colleges of Optometric Education and the New England Association and Schools and Colleges in the U.S.

The program's goal is to develop a core group of individuals trained in optometry and educated as scientists to advance the quality of eye care and the development of educational programs within the field of optometry.  Graduates of the program have gone on to hold the following positions:

  • Director of research and development at the Affiliated Eye Hospital, Wenzhou
  • Director of international programs for the School of Optometry and Ophthalmology, Wenzhou
  • Country coordinator of health services for the International Special Olympics
  • Editor of Contact LensesOptometric InstrumentationVisual Neurophysiology, and Ophthalmic Lenses
  • Vice director of the Affiliated Eye Hospital, Wenzhou
  • Principle lecturer at the Wenzhou Medical College

Graduates of the program have also received grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China and The Natural Science Foundation of Zhejiang Province and the Ministry of Health in Beijing.  They have been elected to the People's National Congress, lectured nationally, and have provided significant continuing education in the area of contact lenses for the ophthalmic industry. 

Fifteen N.E.C.O. faculty members have taught at Wenzhou Medical College.  They provided lectures and expertise in their area of specialization and their efforts are ongoing.  Faculty members have included Drs. Comerford, Harb, Gilman, Jamara, Kran, Kwok, McCormack, Moore, Patel, Scott, Thorn, Wang, Weissberg, Watanabe, and Zorn. 

In addition, the clinical externship established at Wenzhou Medical College in recent years has been included as an elective externship rotation site for fourth year O.D. students of N.E.C.O. 

Seventeen students have matriculated into the joint M.S./O.D. program and twelve have graduated to date.  Despite the relatively small number of students admitted to the program, the impact so far has been significant and has already had a direct impact on the level of optometric care available in China.

N.E.C.O. has helped facilitate, design, and implement an educational program that provides the highest level of education in optometry in China.  The quality of this education has provided the profession a prestige within China due to the program's selective admissions policy.  Graduates of the program have consistently returned to China to hold leadership positions and continue to strengthen the profession within the country.

International Programs

The Center for the International Advancement of Optometry

The New England College of Optometry officially adopted an international agenda in 1994 with the establishment of the Center for the International Advancement of Optometry (C.I.A.O.).  Over the ensuing years, the Center has acquired an experienced staff with expertise in international program development.  Projects are developed with sensitivity to regional needs and carried out in collaboration with local eye care practitioners and educators. 

The C.I.A.O. currently provides faculty teaching expertise in established international optometric programs in China, Germany, Spain, Israel, and South Africa that ranges from advanced training for optometrists in a focused area of study to partnering in graduate level education with foreign universities. N.E.C.O. faculty have been involved in international teaching by personal invitation in such countries as Italy, Thailand, and Colombia.

The C.I.A.O. is notable for:

  • Being the first college of optometry to deliver an accredited doctoral degree program overseas in the 1990s. 
  • Establishing the first and only international joint health care degree program (M.S./O.D.) in China with Wenzhou Medical College.
  • Providing international clinical externship opportunities for optometric students at Wenzhou Medical College (Wenzhou, China), at Centro Boston (Madrid, Spain), and in several Canadian locations.
  • Providing an elective opportunity in dispensing optics for 2nd year students in Aalen University, Germany.

The Advanced Standing International Program

The Advanced Standing International Program (A.S.I.P.) is one component of the College’s ongoing commitment to international optometry and its efforts to develop highly educated professionals who may then contribute to the development of optometry in their home countries. Through C.I.A.O., graduates of foreign optometry programs may be admitted with advanced standing to the Doctor of Optometry degree program. Approximately 150 foreign-educated optometrists from 21 countries have received their Doctor of Optometry degrees from the College's Advanced Standing International Program (A.S.I.P.). 

Graduates of the program have gone on to become faculty at optometric institutions, have been involved in curriculum development, and have become contributors, authors, and editors for journals and articles. A.S.I.P. graduates are involved with legislative issues, are active in providing lectures of continuing education programs, have established international clinical externships, and have gone on to sub-specializing in residency programs, clinical research, and humanitarian work.

Accelerated Optometric Degree Program (AODP)

The Accelerated Optometric Degree Program is a twenty-seven month program for scientists and physicians who hold a doctoral degree (a Ph.D. or M.D.). The program is designed to attract highly qualified candidates who can potentially provide unique contributions to the optometric profession.

The program was created in 1972 and is the only program of its kind in the United States. It boasts more than 300 alumni. The program graduates over 90% of those admitted and the graduates have received outstanding scores on licensing board exams. Graduates of the program have gone on to become college deans, department chairs, professors in both optometry and medical programs, and successful optometric practitioners in a variety of practice settings. 

Most of the Ph.D.s in the program have been previously educated in the biological sciences and have extensive research experience. However, the college seeks to attract a diverse group of applicants who can contribute to the program and to the profession of optometry. Graduates of the program have held previous experience in a variety of disciplines including aeronautical and space engineering, anatomy, anthropology, biochemistry, biology, biomedical engineering, chemistry, dentistry, electrical engineering, experimental psychology, mathematics, neuroscience, parasitology, and physics. Research based Ph.D.s in other fields are also encouraged to apply.

Although several of the medical doctors who have graduated from the program were trained in the United States, most of the physicians in the program are foreign M.D.s with extensive clinical and/or research experience in ophthalmology. Physicians in cardiac surgery, general practice, oncology, pediatrics, and many other specialties have also become excellent optometrists through the program.

The primary criterion for admission to the accelerated program is the quality of the applicant’s career, his/her contributions in research or clinical care, the potential contributions an applicant can make to the optometric profession, and a firm commitment to join the optometric profession. Each applicant must take the Optometry Admissions Test (O.A.T.) or, if it is not available in the applicant’s home country, the Graduate Record Exam (G.R.E.). Each foreign applicant must also take the T.O.E.F.L. exam to help the admissions committee assess the applicant’s ability to communicate in English. An applicant’s ability to communicate effectively in English is carefully assessed as part of the admissions process. Doctors considering this program should be aware that it is extremely demanding and precludes other activities. The first three academic years of the regular four-year program are compressed into 15 intensive months.

Clinical Education

The New England College of Optometry offers a superior clinical education that introduces the aspiring optometrist to a richly diverse patient base in a variety of settings.  The clinical curriculum starts in the first year with the pediatric outreach screening program.  Students participate in a variety of health care settings in the second year as part of the Clerkship Program.  The third year of the program emphasizes increased patient care responsibilities with assignments in community health centers, college-owned clinical facilities, private practices, and Veterans Affairs hospitals.  The final year of the program is spent in year-round full time patient care assignments.  Students work under the careful supervision of faculty mentors who help them hone their clinical skills and develop expertise in specialty areas of interest.  They work in clinical environments that familiarize them with contemporary health care models that emphasize visual health through community-based collaborations.