Monday, October 30, 2017

At Pikeville building dedication, national optometry leader says new college will be a national leader in training of optometrists

UPike Health Professions Education Building
The University of Pikeville dedicated its newest facility, the Health Professions Education Building, Oct. 27. The building houses the school's new Kentucky College of Optometry, the only such college in Kentucky, and UPike’s growing nursing program.

“Our nursing students are enjoying their new space in the HPEB,” said Karen Damron, Ph.D., dean of the Elliott School of Nursing. “They utilize study areas that were not available prior to moving in the facility. In addition, the faculty offices are highly professional and conducive to meeting with current and prospective students. This new building will be key in the continued expansion of our nursing program.”

U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers told more than 600 people at the dedication that UPike is helping close the gap on health disparities in Central Appalachia. “Today Central Appalachia has the highest rates of preventable blindness in the nation,” he said. “So what does UPike do? They build a state-of-the-art facility with the very best equipment, cutting-edge technology and a first-class team.”

The $72 million for the building came from grants by the U.S. Economic Development Administration and the Appalachian Regional Commission, and a low-interest stimulus loan from the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Administration, according to a university news release.

ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl Gohl said, “It’s a beautiful day in Appalachia because this building and school are going to help support and move forward the culture of health in Appalachia.”

The news release noted that Kentucky is one of only three states in the nation in which optometrists have the ability to perform laser and minor surgical procedures. That is a broad scope of practice authorized by those states' legislatures after lobbying from optometrists.

William T. Reynolds, secretary-treasurer of the American Optometric Association, said the college is developing a national model for access to vision care in rural communities.

“They will be the drivers of optometric education for years to come,” he said. “This school will be showing the entire nation how to properly educate and train students in this new frontier of our profession.”

The college emphasizes rural optometry and projects that more than 30 percent of its graduates will practice in medically under-served areas of Appalachia. It operates rural clinics that will serve an estimated 18,000 unique patients annually, the university said.

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