Pennsylvania College of Optometry
Doctor of Optometry

Traditional Program

Curriculum - Module Descriptions

Sequence of Courses
While the sequence of modules and module content represent the most accurate information available at the time of printing, module content and/or sequencing and/or module credit units may change.

Module 1
Molecular and Cellular Processes

Integrates the fundamental anatomical, biochemical, histological, and physiological processes of cells, starting with stem cells. Using specific representative cell types, the discussion proceeds through elements of normal and abnormal cellular processes, ending with immunology and cancer. The overall goal of the module is to provide an understanding of normal cellular organization, processes and function as a basis for recognizing abnormal conditions. This provides the conceptual framework for diagnostic and therapeutic management of the patient (Fall Session).

Module 2
Integrative Organ Systems and Disease

Continues the integrated approach of anatomy, histology and physiology, pathology and pharmacology at the systemic level by looking at specific organ systems. This module begins to address the student’s ability to order needed laboratory and diagnostic testing in a thorough, prudent and methodical fashion. It stresses the role of pharmacological agents in the management of systemic conditions, and their possible impact on the eye (Spring Session).

Module 4
Integrative Neuro-Visual Sciences

Begins with anatomy and progresses through coursework in neurosciences, neuropathology and neuropharmacology. Head and neck anatomy (Fall Session) provides knowledge of the organ systems within the head and neck area and structural relationship to the visual system. Neuroscience (Spring Session) follows with a structural and functional approach to the nervous system. Neuropathology (Spring Session) examines disease conditions affecting the nervous system and forms the foundation for understanding the ocular manifestations that are associated with neurological disease. Finally, neuropharmacology (Spring Session) discusses pharmaceuticals specifically related to nervous and mood disorders.

Module 5
Optometric Principles and Management of Vision Problems

Includes basic and clinical science course work in the areas of refraction, binocular vision, contact lens practice, low vision, and ophthalmic materials. Optical principles and ophthalmic applications (Fall and Spring Sessions) are integrated so that the principles of reflection and refraction are presented in the context of how ophthalmic lenses are used in the correction of human vision problems. Optical models of the human eye are presented in order to study the optics of myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism. Practical applications include multi-focal lenses, progressive lenses, occupational lenses, telescopic and microscopic systems, safety considerations, coatings, tints, lens thickness, aniseikonic lenses, and special lens designs associated with high refractive errors.

Module 6
Principles and Practice of Optometric Medicine

Prepares optometry students with the skills, experiences and values necessary for responsible delivery of primary eye care. The clinical skills sequence includes didactic and laboratory instruction in the cognitive, motor, and technical skills necessary to diagnose, treat and manage patient problems within the scope of optometric practice. It includes didactic and laboratory work in patient workup, refraction and advanced examination skills.

The community clerkships and traineeships in The Eye Institute provide the opportunity for students to develop and apply their clinical skills. This includes active observation of optometric practice on and off-campus and assignments to community-based screenings (Fall and Spring Sessions).

Module 7
Integrative Approaches to Clinical Problem Solving

Facilitates the ability of the student to reason through and solve clinical problems by including aspects of two key related courses, i.e., Evidence-Based Medicine and Doctor-Patient Relationship, into each and every case. The students are placed into small study groups and, together with a faculty facilitator, they must address several issues including ethical and professional issues that have been introduced into a case. They learn to research new databases, make decisions and gather appropriate statistically based evidence, all of which must support their decisions. The cases in the first year focus on the development of skills necessary to make decisions, based on scientific literature.

Module 9
Electives and Advanced Studies

Provides the student with opportunities to pursue areas of special interest either by selection of various electives or by enrollment in an advanced studies track that can span over the four years of study. The latter involves a series of courses and clinical activities that, taken as a whole, facilitate learning and provide experiences beyond entry-level qualifications. This module also allows students to pursue research activities.

Module 10
Strategies for Personal and Professional Development

This four-year building block strategy prepares graduates for the expectations and challenges of the future. The Patient and Society sequence begins the first year, focusing on the ethical, professional values and the trends and challenges of diversity within the profession in the changing healthcare system. This module, also referred to as CPPD, the Curriculum for Personal and Professional Development, includes exercises in goal setting, career planning and the importance of financial planning and debt management (Fall Session).

Module 3 
Integrative Ocular and Systemic Disease

Builds on the model of the first two basic science modules, and emphasizes specific ocular structures. The ocular biology sequence (Summer/Fall Sessions) presents the development, anatomy, histology, physiology and biochemistry of the ocular tissues, relating structure to function. This is followed by ocular immunology. The Spring Session presents in detail the etiology, pathogenesis, differential diagnosis, treatment and management of diseases of the anterior part of the eye, including the lids, orbit and adnexa, conjunctiva, cornea, sclera and uvea lens. Included are the fundamentals of ocular microbiology, ocular pharmacology and ocular pathology necessary for the student to understand the pathogenic mechanisms and the natural course of ocular diseases. Separate sequences are also dedicated to the diagnosis and management of the glaucomas and to specific ocular emergencies (Spring Session).

Module 4
Integrative Neuro-Visual Sciences

Continues in the second year with a presentation of general sensory physiology, followed by the physiology of monocular vision and perception, including the behavior of single sensory cells from the retina to the cortex (Summer/Fall Session). It proceeds to basic concepts in human development with emphasis on the developmental changes in infancy, childhood and late adulthood and their effect on various motor, perceptual and visual functions (Spring Session). The physiological and neurological aspects of the oculomotor system, including saccadic, pursuits, vestibular, optokinetic and fixation systems are presented (Spring Session). The student is also prepared to evaluate, diagnose and manage accommodative, oculomotor and non-strabismic binocular problems, using lenses, prisms and vision therapy in the normal and abnormal binocular function sequence (Spring Session).

Module 5
Optometric Principles and Management of Vision Problems

Continues with a special distance-learning (Internet-based) sequence on optics of the eye (Summer Session). This is followed with the theory and principles of designing, fitting, evaluating and caring for patients using uncomplicated rigid, spherical soft, toric soft and extended wear contact lenses (Fall Session). Then advanced rigid lens design, specialty contact lens care and contact lens related practice management topics are introduced (Spring Session). Concurrently, students are presented with various philosophies of data analysis related to the refractive anomalies most commonly occurring in the population (Spring Session).

Module 6
Principles and Practice of Optometric Medicine

Begins with a one-month clerkship (Summer Session). This clerkship provides the student with the opportunity to reinforce clinical skills acquired in the first year clinical skills sequence, clinical experiences that emphasize the importance of ophthalmic materials in optometric practice, and the continued exposure to optometric role models in “real world” community settings. Professional practice proceeds with greater direct patient care involvement, encouraging the development of basic clinical skills and patient care thought processes in community based clerkships, community screenings and on-campus clinical assignments (Fall Session). Clinical activities advance with greater responsibility for the care provided at on- and off-campus clinical assignments. Increasing emphasis is placed on problem-solving and patient management skills while continuing the development of more advanced examination techniques (Fall Session).

Module 7
Integrative Approaches to Clinical Problem Solving

The second year specifically addresses diagnostic issues (Fall and Spring Sessions). Students build their clinical reasoning skills through a case-based approach. Students master the ability to acquire, interpret, synthesize and record significant clinical-decision making information in an effective and efficient manner, with the emphasis on diagnosis.

Module 9
Electives and Advanced Studies

Provides students with opportunities to pursue special areas of interest. Students may also elect to pursue research activities. They may elect to take one or more of these electives or advanced track courses.

Module 10
Strategies for Personal and Professional Development

The Curriculum for Personal and Professional Development exposes students to the basic elements of short and long-term financial planning, including savings and investment strategies that support and complement students’ personal and professional goals (Fall Session).

Module 2
Clinical Medicine

This course surveys the optometric and medical diagnosis and management of commonly encountered conditions. It reviews physical examination, laboratory testing procedures and management strategies to numerous medical conditions using lecture and case presentation formats. Both optometric and medical clinicians participate in the presentations. In addition, students are taught and certified in CPR and First Aid procedures. (Summer/Fall Sessions)

Module 3
Integrative Ocular and Systemic Disease

Presents an extensive discussion of the diagnosis and management of posterior segment (vitreal, choroidal, retinal) conditions.

Module 4
Integrative Neuro-Visual Sciences

Culminates in the third year (Fall Session) with a discussion of the diagnostic methods (CT, MRI, MRA, Ultrasound) and management of patients with neuro-ophthalmic disorders.

Module 5
Optometric Principles and Management of Vision Problems

Advances to an in-depth preparation in normal and abnormal binocular function. Students are prepared to evaluate, diagnose and manage amblyopia using lenses, occlusion and vision therapy (Fall Session). The sequence proceeds to areas of comitant and non-comitant strabismus, including etiology, prognosis, evaluation, and treatment of types of strabismus (Fall Session).
Module 5 concludes with targeted emphasis in the areas of Vision Rehabilitation, Pediatric/Infant Vision, and Ophthalmic Lasers. Included are the rehabilitative management of the visually impaired patient, the evaluation and management of vision problems in pediatric and infant patients, and basic and applied ophthalmic lasers, including concepts in laser physics and laser tissue interactions (Fall Session).

Module 6
Principles and Practice of Optometric Medicine

Progresses during the third year. Clinical activities and responsibilities associated with professional practice include greater examination efficiency, enhanced diagnostic abilities and development of logical management plans (Summer Session). The sequence concludes with the highest expectation of cognitive, technical and analytical skills necessary for transition to the more intensive clinical demands of externships (Fall Session).

Module 7
Integrative Approaches to Clinical Problem Solving

Concludes with advanced case studies with emphasis on integrative skills and the refinement of clinical decision making. Special attention is given to patient management and responsibility for life-long learning and maintaining continuing competency (Summer/Fall Session).

Module 10
Strategies for Personal and Professional Development

The Curriculum for Personal and Professional Development progresses, with special emphasis on business and practice management principles, as well as the essentials of healthcare organization and optometric jurisprudence. Added emphasis is given to employment opportunities, the purchase of a practice, association, partnerships, starting a practice and employment contracts. Students are oriented to the major organizational issues facing the areas of Medicare, Medicaid, HMOs, managed care and public and private financing options (Fall session).The on-campus portion of the program concludes in December of the third year.

(1½ Clinical Years)

Module 8
Clinical Externships

Begins January of the third year and proceeds through the entire fourth year. Clinical externships are the culmination of the patient care preparation programs of the College. The on- and off-campus clinical experiences at the College (Professional Practice 1-7) during the first 2 ½ years of the core program prepare the student in the basic clinical skills so that the student can assume the more intensive clinical demands of externships.

Externships include rotations of three (3) months or five (5) months. The first externship (Spring Session) of the third program year, will be a six (6) month off-campus rotation. The remaining 12-month period (fourth program year) includes four (4) externships of three (3) or five (5) months duration, predominantly in off-campus private practice, group practice and/or hospital settings. A student will do a minimum of four (4) externships and no more than five (5). More than 160 sites have been approved across the United States.

Externships are classified into four (4) categories, each with specific educational objectives associated with it. The categories are: The Eye Institute, hospital based site, disease site, and private practice site.

Module 9
Electives and Advanced Studies

Provides students with opportunities to pursue special areas of interest. Students also can elect to pursue research activities. They may choose to take one or more of these electives. This module also serves as a platform for special scholars and joint degree programs.

Vision Therapy/Pediatric Advanced Care Track
Designed to provide students who complete this tract with special knowledge and the skills necessary to manage complex binocular vision problems requiring vision therapy and complicated vision problems of children. The goal of the basic didactic and clinical education completed by all students is to develop primary care clinicians capable of managing common vision problems in children and to initiate the referral of those children with vision problems requiring advanced care.

Module 10
Strategies for Personal and Professional Development

The Curriculum for Personal and Professional Development progresses, with special emphasis on business and practice management principles, as well as the essentials of healthcare organization and optometric jurisprudence. Added emphasis is given to employment opportunities, the purchase of a practice, association, partnerships, starting a practice and employment contracts. Students are oriented to the major organizational issues facing the areas of Medicare, Medicaid, HMOs, managed care and public and private financing options (Fall Session).