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Flinders student Luke Higgins

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The University of Melbourne and Flinders University will both reach major milestones this year.

The first optometry students will be graduating after five years of study at Flinders, and at the University of Melbourne its first cohort of Doctor of Optometry (OD) students will be graduating.

Both are appealing for practitioners to host clinical placements.

Flinders University Foundation Professor and Chair of Optometry and Vision Science in the School of Medicine, Professor Konrad Pesudovs, said 16 students were due to graduate in December with a Bachelor of Medical Science (Vision Science), Master of Optometry.

‘The graduating class comes from South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia, with one-third from rural areas,’ he said.

The fifth-year students are currently on clinical placement at optometry practices nationwide, and engaged in a major research project that spans three semesters.

‘Everything has exceeded our expectations,’ Professor Pesudovs said.

‘The most exciting thing about the whole process is the placement model. We are delighted with success of the placements. The optometrists love having the students there and the students receive fantastic training and experience. We have seen a dramatic step in their personal growth, development and confidence, and their ability to pull everything together and function in a work environment.’

The Flinders optometry department has 40 placement partners and is looking for more.

It received $1.5 million in grants to provide infrastructure such as equipment to practices in its clinical placement program. The grants helped to fit out 29 rooms across South Australia and interstate.

The fifth cohort of 35 optometry students started at Flinders in March, making 153 students enrolled across five years. Overall, the optometry course is female dominated with 80 per cent women and includes three indigenous students.

The Optometry Council of Australia and New Zealand has accredited the course with nine conditions and the assessment team will visit again in May to assess changes.

Student Sophie Van Kleef
Flinders student Sophie Van Kleef on placement with Mitch Hancock

184 in OD program

Outgoing Head of the Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences at the University of Melbourne Professor Algis Vingrys said there were 119 ODs enrolled over three years.

With enrolment of 65 first-year students in 2014, there would be a total cohort of 184 students over the four years of the OD program, he said.

The Doctor of Optometry is a four-year post-graduate degree with teaching innovations bridging scientific and clinical domains and allowing students to gain clinical training from the first week.

Third year features knowledge based and clinical competency examinations which must be passed to enter the final year, which is spent honing clinical knowledge and skills and extending experience into subspeciality areas of clinical practice.

Final-year placements are at the University of Melbourne Eyecare Clinic, Australian College of Optometry clinics, hospital, country and metropolitan practices, ophthalmologists’ practices and an international site.

‘We have implemented country and metropolitan placements in the knowledge that workplace experience plays a large role in providing real-world training for optometry students,’ Professor Vingrys said. ‘We are immensely proud of the OD and believe that our graduates will be highly sought as self-aware and work-ready clinicians.’

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