Surgical Fellowship Prepares Optometrists for Expanding Scope of Practice

Source: University of the Incarnate Word

As a growing numbers of states introduce legislation that would enable optometrists to perform laser and other surgical procedures, the University of the Incarnate Word, Rosenberg School of Optometry, has launched the first ever Fellowship in Ocular Disease and Optometric Surgery to provide optometrists with advanced clinical training in performing these procedures. 

“Our goal with this fellowship program is to provide optometrists with the best possible preparation for introducing surgical care into their practices,” Timothy Wingert, OD, Rosenberg’s Dean, said in a university news release. “All optometry schools now train their students to perform surgical procedures, but for doctors who have been in practice a few years and recent graduates seeking advanced training this program will give them the opportunity to perform hundreds of procedures under expert supervision.”

The 12-month fellowship program is located in rural Logansport, Louisiana, where there is an acute shortage of eye care providers. Dr. Dennis Golden has seen the unmet need for eye care first-hand, and when Louisiana became the third state to allow optometrists to perform surgery in 2014, he embraced it wholeheartedly. “There are no ophthalmologists around here,” he said. “The closest ophthalmologist is over an hour away, and many of my patients have no means to get there.”

Over the years, Dr. Golden has built a large surgical practice in Logansport, performing hundreds of laser and minor incisional procedures annually.

“This is a fabulous experience,” says Dr. Katherine Dronka, the training program’s first fellow. She entered the fellowship after completing a residency program in ocular disease at the Detroit VA medical center. “This fellowship has exceeded my expectations. Dr. Golden is an amazing mentor. To date I have performed hundreds of procedures, including iridotomies, capsulotomies, lump and bump removals and periocular surgeries.”

“This post-graduate training opportunity in optometric surgical procedures is truly unique,” said Dr. James Sandefur, who serves as Executive Director of the Optometry Association of Louisiana and Secretary of the Louisiana State Board of Optometry Examiners. “By offering this program the Rosenberg School of Optometry is clearly a leader in our profession.”

“This program meets an important need,” says Dr. Richard Castillo, who is not affiliated with the program. Dr. Castillo, an ophthalmologist and Assistant Dean at the Oklahoma College of Optometry, is also a founding member of the American Society of Optometric Surgeons. “As the scope of optometry continues to expand our training programs must keep pace. A post-graduate training program devoted to optometric surgery is an excellent way to meet that need.“

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