TULSA – Optometric doctors from across the state and nation will gather in Tulsa this week for the inaugural OAOP / NSUOCO Converge.
Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry (NSUOCO) and the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians (OAOP) are teaming up to present the “Converge: Leading Optometry in Excellence” conference Thursday through Saturday at the Marriott Tulsa Hotel Southern Hills.
The conference combines the OAOP Fall Conference and the NSUOCO Winter Symposium into one event. NSUOCO officials also plan to hold their annual white coat ceremony, which is a tradition signifying the entry of students into the direct patient clinical care portion of the program, at the event.
“Our profession depends on the school to send physicians who are well educated and trained in practice,” said Joel Robison, executive director of the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians. “The mission of the OAOP is then to represent these doctors in order to enable them to exercise at the highest level of their training and education. I believe we have a strong relationship with NSUOCO today and we want to develop this relationship in the future.
Oklahoma College of Optometry Associate Dean Dr. Nate Lighthizer said the state association and the College of Optometry are working well together and pooling resources to deliver this conference is considered. as another way to strengthen this relationship. He added that 80% of optometrists in the state are graduates of NSUOCO.
“It was just another way to take it to new heights,” Lighthizer said. “I hope attendees will remember that Oklahoma Optometry continues to be strong and a leader in eye care.”
Attendees will hear from renowned speakers from the optometry industry and have the opportunity to deepen their expertise through hands-on workshops and other continuing education opportunities.
Dr Ron Melton of Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates, PA, and Dr Randall Thomas of Cabarrus Eye Center are among the guests to present. Lighthizer said Melton and Thomas are a well-known duo in the field of optometry who have spoken together for many decades.
Also on the list is the president of Omni Eye Specialists, Dr. Eric Schmidt, who is one of the leading leaders in the treatment of glaucoma. He is also president of the Optometric Glaucoma Society. A number of NSUOCO professors are also expected to speak, including Lighthizer, Associate Professor and Head of the NSUOCO Clinic, Dr Spencer Johnson, and Associate Professor and American Board of Optometry graduate Dr Joseph Shetler.
Robison said the OAOP and NSUOCO partnership dates back to the beginning of the optometry program at NSU and that it was reinvigorated with strong support from the former dean of the Oklahoma College of Optometry, the Dr George Foster and the current Dean, Dr Dean Penisten.
Robison said Foster always spoke of the “three legged stool” as he stressed the importance of the NSUOCO, OAOP and the Oklahoma Optometry Examination Board who needed to work as a team to provide unparalleled eye care in Oklahoma.
“We think that’s as true today as it was during Dean Foster’s tenure,” Robison said.
He added that he hopes conference attendees will not only receive a quality education, but also have the opportunity to see old friends and make new relationships.
Lighthizer said the plan is to offer this conference on an annual basis in the future. Robison said that, like other professions, optometrists have been affected by the pandemic. He added that as the world emerges from the pandemic, there is a need to start coming together to exchange knowledge and see familiar faces.
Lighthizer said that with the proposed construction of the new optometry facility in Tahlequah, future conferences could be held closer to the college, which is one of 23 optometry training programs nationwide and the only one in Oklahoma.
NSU launched the “Building Excellence: A Vision for the Future” campaign to raise funds for a new facility in February. The proposed facility is more than double the existing space for the Oklahoma College of Optometry in the original WW Hastings Hospital built by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1936.
The new facility will include state-of-the-art equipment, state-of-the-art technology, specialized clinics for low vision, vision therapy, vision rehabilitation, primary care and contact lenses, as well as an operating theater for optometry Oklahoma’s expanded scope of practice.
Additionally, officials are offering additional space to increase the number of optometrists who can benefit from the hands-on training offered through one of the college’s many continuing education courses.
To learn more about the converge conference, visit https://oklahoma.aoa.org/events/2021-converge.