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Drs. Lewandowski and Andrea Selected for 2016 ASCO Educational Starter Grant

November 8, 2016 New England College of Optometry, NECO, is pleased to share that clinical faculty members, Drs. Crystal Lewandowski and Thomas Andrea, NECO, have been awarded an ASCO educational starter grant for their project, “The New England College of Optometry Student Perception of Cultural Competence.”

The research grant is funded through a general grant from The Vision Care Institute, LLC, an affiliate of Johnson and Johnson Vision Care, Inc. Faculty at any of the ASCO accredited schools are eligible to apply for these Educational Starter Grants which focus on education with an emphasis on “the concepts of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.”

“We are going to study student perceptions of cultural competence,” explains Dr. Andrea. “This is especially important to us as we both work in community health centers with diverse patient populations of with a range of cultural values and perceptions of healthcare. Our students are highly trained when it comes to providing high quality eye care but we want to dig deeper and see how they feel about their comfort level, experiences, and education with regard to cultural competence.”

Crystal Lewandowski

Dr. Andrea and Lewandowski hope to establish a baseline of cultural competence by surveying the current four classes to see how students feel about their own level of cultural competence. Initially they will be piloting the study with a small “focus group” of students, and then taking that feedback into account to survey the entire student population.

This data will be analyzed to see if there are any trends that emerge across or between different cohorts. Their long term goal is to perform a longitudinal study to see how these attitudes and perceptions change from the beginning of the year to the end of the year among the same group of students. This initial study will lay the groundwork for the study and allow them to reflect upon and refine their curriculum to better meet the needs of their students in developing cultural competence.

Thomas Andrea

“We provide care for a diverse patient population,” explains Dr. Andrea, “and see that there are many additional challenges introduced to both students and providers when accounting for language barriers, different cultural perceptions of health care, and different levels of comfort in performing exams in other languages. As educators, we strive not only to teach how best to manage patient's ocular health, but also how to do so in a culturally competent way.

“The sheer variety of ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds and the unique challenges a diverse group of patients presents is particularly interesting. We work closely with interpreters to help relate our questions and findings to patients, but it is important to go beyond that simple translation and ensure that the way in which you are relaying information is culturally appropriate depending on a patient's background and beliefs. Some of these perceptions are not always overt to the student or the provider, and our goal is to improve this understanding and fluency for students as well as faculty members.”

The study will run through the end of next year, resulting in a manuscript that analyzes the data discovered through their research. Following the initial study, they plan to continue to investigate cultural competency with a focus on whether students perceive a change in their own self-reported comfort and knowledge on the subject over the course of a year. 

About New England College of Optometry

New England College of Optometry, NECO, is an independent graduate college of optometry that educates students for careers in eye care delivery, research and education. For over 130 years, the New England College of Optometry has been educating optometrists and leaders in the field. Originally founded in 1894 as the Klein School of Optics, NECO prepares the next generation of eye care providers, educators, leaders, and innovators through a rigorous curriculum and extensive clinical experiences. Through a vast network of clinical affiliations, our students put patient care first, providing vision care to children, older adults, the homeless, and individuals with disabilities through our mobile eye clinic, satellite clinics in schools, homeless shelters, community health centers, and VA medical centers.

Media Contact: Ingrid Hoogendoorn, Director of Communications
phone: 617-587-5722