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College of Optometry looks forward after 100 years

It all started for optometrists at Ohio State on Sept. 16, 1914. 

That’s when the Ohio State College of Optometry had its first day of classes, with 16 men enrolled in a two-year applied-optics program, said Dr. Karla Zadnik, dean of the College of Optometry, during the college’s centennial gala Friday evening.

Now the college receives about 600 applications annually from around the globe, and only 64 students are accepted per year to receive a four-year doctoral degree, said Dr. Robert Newcomb, professor emeritus and historian of the College of Optometry. 

In between then and now was the development of optometry into a niche of its own in the medical campus. 

“(The progress in this last century) really mirrors the profession of optometry as a whole. Optometrists have gone from working in jewelry stores to people giving prescription glasses to primary healthcare physicians who diagnose and treat all aspects of vision,” Zadnik said. 

And it seems they’re not done yet. 

Zadnik and others at the College of Optometry expect to see even more progress in the next 100 years.

“Optometrists are going to become specialized and we will have people focused on various clinical aspects, binocular vision, sports injuries, perceptual problems, and the list goes on,” Newcomb said. 

Ph.D. students are expected to do research in vision science and become leaders in the profession at OSU and beyond, he said. 

With continual development in vision science through research and academic studies, some optometry students said they plan to change some of the misconceptions that existed in the field’s beginning.

“The biggest misconception is that (optometry) is just contact lenses and glasses, and this is what is changing from years ago to the future,” said Hafsa Mohiuddin, a first-year graduate student in optometry. 

Harmin Chima, a fourth-year in optometry, said he would like to see a greater awareness about eye health in the next century.

“I would like to see (in the coming years) a greater awareness in the importance of ocular health, especially in a public standpoint,” he said. “We typically neglect problems until it gets bad, and optometrists are part of the solution to preventing that.” 

Others, like first-year optometry student Brian Rashid, said it’s nice to belong to a college with strong academics and traditions.

“It’s so cool to be a part of a college that is not only academically reputable, but has tradition and culture within it specifically and at Ohio State as a whole,” he said.

The college celebrated its accomplishments and 100th birthday Friday night with 850 guests, including students, alumni and community members, Zadnik said.  

Alumni and past deans gave speeches, and guests heard a performance from the OSU Marching Band. Brutus Buckeye made an appearance as well.

“This program is a great experience because of the strong faculty and alumni, all who are involved on a national level in terms of research and academics,” Chima said. 

The College of Optometry is not alone in celebration. 

The OSU College of Medicine and College of Nursing are also celebrating centennials this year. A commemorative event will be held in November to honor the health sciences trio, Newcomb said.

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