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2016 Visionaries Day Showcases Student Work

2016 Visionaries Day Showcases Student Work image

Students, faculty, and staff from throughout the College came together on April 25, 2016 to celebrate student learning and accomplishments at the 14th Annual Visionaries Day. Originally created to showcase the first year students’ Public Health Care course posters, the program has grown steadily over the years to highlight student achievement and include presentations and competitions for first, second, and third year students.

Dr. Gary Chu, Senior Director of Public Health and Community Collaborations at New England Eye and professor for the Public Health course, originally conceived of the public health poster project and competition as a way for students to experience public health issues that they learn about in class. “My desire all along,” he explains, “was to have students understand that we can’t just teach them things, we want them to experience issues firsthand. Through Visionaries Day, students have a chance to research, learn, and share their experiences with the whole school.”

First Year Public Health Posters

Teams of first year students gathered in the library and atrium to present their public health research posters.  These posters represented the culmination of group projects developed for Dr. Chu’s Vision Health Care course.  Students chose a public health issue, conducted research and interviews, theorize, and drew conclusions to delve deeper into their topic. This year, the topics ranged from myopia prevention and sports-related concussions to EnChroma Glasses and online eye exams.  View the full repository of student posters with audio descriptions. 

Teams of students presented their posters to a panel of judges who assessed each project based on criteria set by Drs. Gary Chu and Diane Russo.  They were also judged for separate awards by a panel of AODP and ASIP students.  Winners of the panel-judging were encouraged to submit their posters to the American Academy of Optometry for presentation at the AAO’s annual meeting and are eligible for $1,000 travel grant.

Judge Hilary Geiser, OD ’15, presented awards to the following teams:

Second Year Presentation: ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital

Second year students attended a presentation by Jack McHale, Director MD 10 program at Orbis. The ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital brings vision care and eliminates avoidable blindness to people in over 92 countries through a specially designed DC-10 and MD10. The mobile hospital includes a flight deck, classroom, audio visual room, laser and examination room, operation room, substerile room and recovery room.

Similar to the work done through New England Eye’s mobile clinic OnSight, ORBIS brings care to those in underserved communities around the world.  The fully equipped mobile teaching hospital and teaching facility provides access to care by flying around the world with trained doctors who perform eye surgeries for local communities.  In addition, doctors share their surgical knowledge and skills by training doctors in hospital based programs in the community to continue their work after their departure.  These local programs continue to provide accessible eye care to residents through newly trained local professionals.

McHale encouraged NECO students to join an ORBIS mission and share their optometric skills. He told students, “You have the opportunity to make a difference in your community and the world.”  He explained that they hope to expand the ORBIS services to low vision and integrate optometrists into the ORBIS missions. The integration of optometry and ophthalmology on ORBIS could bring care to even more individuals, particularly those that are not surgical candidates but could be helped by having an eye exam and receiving glasses. 

Mr. Jack McHale, pictured above with President Scott, Dr. Gary Chu, Senior Director of Public Health and Community Collaborations and Dr. Robert DiMartino, Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs 


Following McHale’s presentation, Drs. Bina Patel, Nicole Ross, and Jennifer Williams talked to second year students about VOSH (Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity).  VOSH aims to provide eye care both locally and abroad by traveling to underserved communities on medical missions around the world. The doctors noted that “approximately 670 million people worldwide are functionally blind or visually impaired because they do not have a pair of eyeglasses.”  The NECO VOSH group visited the Dominican Republic on their latest medical mission this April.

In the presentation, Drs. Patel, Ross, and Williams described the impact these medical missions have had over the past seven years, noting that 130 students and 10 doctors have seen 6, 187 patients and dispensed over 4,000 pairs of glasses. Corporate sponsors provide artificial tears and eye drops to distribute.  The instructors encouraged second year students to consider sharing their skills on a future trip.  Through various stations, those on the trip provide entrance testing/triage, refraction, dispensary, and disease identification.

Third Year Business Plan Competition

All third year students work in groups to prepare mock business plans as part of Dr. David Mill’s Ophthalmic Business Management Course. Third year students were encouraged to view the first year public health posters as well as participate in the annual business plan competition.    Read more about Dr. Mill’s innovative business course.

The top five teams of student finalists competed on Visionaries Day for a $1500 cash prize from Essilor of America.   The groups presented their business plans to a panel of judges from the business community. This year’s judges included Denise Brady of Essilor, Steven Shawler from IQ Insights, and Rich Lawless, current President of MSO.

In their presentations, the teams discussed the location they chose for their practice, variables that impacted their business (location, local competition, various populations, nearby schools or senior centers), their chosen staff, business goals, business mission, internal and external marketing efforts, and their financial status and consideration. Through the presentations, teams hoped to convey their strategy for maintaining and growing their businesses and to make a case for a specific loan request.  Participating in these group business plans, students gain knowledge, skill, and background in how to manage an ophthalmic business in all eye and health care delivery systems.   

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