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Student Achievement Celebrated at 2018 Visionaries Event

Group of students looking at research poster

April 19, 2018 marked the 16th annual Visionaries Event at New England College of Optometry, NECO. Students, faculty, staff, and supporters came together for Visionaries: A Celebration of Student Accomplishment. The yearly spring event was originally created to showcase first year students Public Health Care posters, but has grown to include events for second and third year students as well, bringing the College community together to celebrate student achievement.

Third Year Ophthalmic Business Plan Competition

This year, the day began with the OD Class of 2019 Business Plan Competition. Sponsored in part by Essilor of America, the Ophthalmic Business Plan Competition celebrates the work of five groups of OD3 students in Dr. David Mill’s Ophthalmic Business Management Course who competed for the top prize of $1,500. The groups took turns presenting their business proposals to four judges before fielding questions and receiving feedback.  The judging panel this year included Janelle Routheir, OD and Aaron Goffinet, OD from Essilor, Wayne Zahka, OD from Westwood Eye Care, and Shivang Dave, from PlenOptika.  The winning OD 3 team, Precision Vision, received a check from Essilor and featured students Brett Burns, Burke Lieppman, Dora Pepo, Maureen Raubach, and Tyler Weber. 

Winning OD3 team with judges holding big check

In addition to the Business Plan Competition, Professor David Mills awarded a student group the Sabre Cup for their work with the business simulator. Throughout the process, each group creates a mock practice and makes business decisions to manage their practice through a simulated optometric business during the semester. The course involves using a cloud-based simulator developed by Dr. Mills, Cam Tipping, and Essilor developers. Throughout the semester, students learn about the challenges facing optometrists and the strategies they can employ to be successful.  

Second Year Presentation: Dr. Shivang R. Dave

Shivang Dave holding QuickSee machineSecond year students were invited to attend a keynote lecture by Dr. Shivang R. Dave, PhD, Co-founder and CEO of PlenOptika. Dr. Dave is a passionate speaker about global health and entrepreneurship.  He has over a decade of entrepreneurial experience working to innovate, translate, and commercialize three separate biomedical technologies. He has been instrumental in securing grant funding, establishing business partnerships, filing patents, organizing pilot test and running clinical evaluations of the QuickSee platform in the US and in India. The QuickSee autorefractor helps build capacity and scale impact by providing quick, easy, and affordable access to eye care in India.  PlenOptika explains that the technology utilizes “wavefront aberrometry to precisely determine low-order refractive errors, enabling highly accurate, objective measurements anywhere.” His company is currently offering a base model and one with features to the market with the goal of reaching kids in India who need eye care the most.

During the presentation, Dr. Dave detailed his journey as a researcher, innovator, and entrepreneur leading to his work co-developing the QuickSee platform and cofounding PlenOptika. Speaking to a packed room, Dr. Shivang explained that he looked for a large scale problem before looking for a solution.  “When creating something new,” he explained, “Look at the factors that impact the problem, considering the ecosystem and the effects.” For Shivang, this meant looking to find a solution to help address the lack of vision correction in India, as well as access to glasses.  The answer he developed with his colleagues was to create an autorefractor that would help to address this issue by providing quick, easy, accurate measurements with the QuickSee, providing access to underserved and low-resource communities around the world. The QuickSee aims to provide an accurate measurement in ten seconds. 

In developing the QuickSee, he and his colleagues realized they needed to keep learning and asking questions from a variety of stakeholders to create their final product. While one stakeholder might have a particular need, another user might utilize the technology completely differently and offer new insights. By using an iterative process, they fine-tuned both the design and functionality of their device, as well as making changes based on cultural perceptions in the marketplace.  

Throughout his talk, Dr. Shivang discussed the journey he took to land at this spot. He described the challenges and successes along his path towards success noting the opportunities that arose and led him on new pathways. He urged students to be open to the process of discovery throughout their careers and opportunities that might come their way as well. He also urged them to be persistent and hard-working and realize that success often came at the end of a journey, not at the beginning. 

First Year Public Health Posters

Students standing by series of research postersDuring the afternoon session, groups of first year student displayed and presented their public health posters for the Public Health Care class. The topic for the posters this year focused on international health systems. Each group was assigned a country and was responsible for presenting information about the country’s demographics, health care system and eye care.  The 22 posters detailed healthcare and optometry in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Child, China, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Russia, Rwanda, Singapore, Switzerland Taiwan, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.