Pennsylvania College of Optometry
Doctor of Optometry

Traditional Program

Curriculum - Module Descriptions

The Traditional Doctor of Optometry degree program curriculum is organized into ten educational modules. The modules represent an integrated sequence of the knowledge, skills, and values that students are expected to acquire in to order to demonstrate entry-to-practice competencies. The curriculum overview graphic below summarizes the sequencing of the modules across the four-year program.

The academic year is divided into three terms: fall semester (August – December); spring semester (January – May); and summer semester (May – August).

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, genetic, histological, and physiological processes of cells. Using specific representative cell types, the discussion proceeds through elements of normal and abnormal cellular processes, ending with immunology, pathology and cancer. The overall goal of the module is to provide an understanding of normal cellular organization, processes and function so as to facilitate recognition of abnormal tissue structure and function. This provides the conceptual framework for diagnostic and therapeutic management of the patient (fall semester).

Module 2

Integrative Organ Systems and Disease
Continues the integrated approach of instruction in anatomy, histology, physiology, pathology and pharmacology at the systemic level by looking at specific organ systems. This module includes instruction in the ordering of needed laboratory and diagnostic testing in a thorough, appropriate and methodical fashion. It emphasizes the role of pharmacological agents in the management of systemic conditions, including potential ocular affect. (spring semester).

Module 4

Integrative Neuro-Visual Sciences
Begins with anatomy and progresses through the neurosciences, neuropathology and neuropharmacology. Head and neck anatomy (fall semester) provides knowledge of the organ systems within the head and neck area and structural relationship to the visual system. Neuroscience (spring semester) follows with a structural and functional approach to the nervous system. Neuropathology (spring semester) 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 semester) discusses pharmaceuticals specifically related to nervous system disorders.

Module 5

Optometric Principles and Management of Vision Problems
Includes basic and clinical science instruction in the areas of refraction, binocular vision, contact lens practice, low vision and ophthalmic materials in a 2½ year sequence. Optical principles and ophthalmic applications (fall, spring semesters) 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 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, knowledge and experiences necessary for the responsible and effective delivery of primary eye care. The clinical skills course sequence includes didactic and laboratory instruction in the cognitive,  motor, and technical skills necessary to diagnose, treat and manage clinical conditions within the scope of optometric practice. It includes didactic and laboratory work in patient evaluation, refraction and advanced examination skills. The Eye Institute’s traineeship program as well as community clerkships provide the opportunity for students to develop and apply their clinical skills. This includes active observation of optometric practice, assigned sessions at The Eye Institute, as well as on- and off-campus involvement in community-based screenings (fall, spring semesters).

Module 7

Integrative Approaches to Clinical Problem Solving
Facilitates the ability of the student to analyze and solve clinical problems by including aspects of two key related courses, Evidence-Based Practice and The Doctor-Patient Relationship. Students work in small study groups with a faculty facilitator to explore the issues of a clinical scenario. Issues of ethics and professionalism are considered in the management of the patient. Students learn to research new databases, evaluate statistically-based evidence and apply this evidence to support their clinical decisions. The cases in the first year focus on the development of skills necessary to research and evaluate the scientific literature. (fall, spring semesters).

Module 9

Electives
These electives provide an opportunity for students to customize their clinical experience as lecture, workshop or online formats. Students also may choose electives in research.

Module 10

Strategies for Personal and Professional Development
This four-year learning 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 health care system. This module, also referred to as the Curriculum for Personal and Professional Development, includes exercises in goal setting, career planning and the importance of financial planning and debt management (fall semester).

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 semesters) presents the development, anatomy, histology, physiology and biochemistry of the ocular tissues, relating structure to function. This is followed by ocular immunology and microbiology. The spring semester presents 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, uvea and 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, to specific ocular emergencies and an introduction to posterior segment disease. (spring semester).

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 semesters). The physiological and neurological aspects of the oculomotor system, including saccadic, pursuits, vestibular, optokinetic and fixation systems are presented (spring semester). 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 semester).

Module 5

Optometric Principles and Management of Vision Problems
Begins with an online sequence on optics of the eye (summer semester). This is followed with the theory and principles of fitting and caring for patients using uncomplicated rigid, spherical soft, toric soft and extended wear contact lenses (fall semester). Then advanced rigid lens design, specialty contact lens care and contact lens-related practice management topics are introduced (spring semester). Concurrently, students are presented with various philosophies of data analysis related to the refractive anomalies most commonly occurring in the population (spring semester).

Module 6

Principles and Practice of Optometric Medicine
Begins with a one-month summer clerkship (summer semester). This clerkship provides the student with the opportunity to reinforce knowledge and skills acquired in the first year clinical skills course sequence. This clinical experience that emphasizes the importance of ophthalmic materials in optometric practice, and includes continued exposure to optometric role models in community settings. Professional Practice continues with greater direct patient care involvement, encouraging the continued development of clinical skills and patient care thought processes through involvement in community-based clerkships, community screenings and on-campus clinical assignments (fall semester). Clinical activities include greater involvement in the care provided at on- and off-campus clinical assignments. The most intensive on-campus clinical experience, the internship program, begins with the spring term of the second professional year and concludes with the fall term of the third professional year. Increasing emphasis is placed on problem-solving and patient management skills while continuing the development of more advanced examination techniques (fall semester).

Module 7

Integrative Approaches to Clinical Problem Solving
The second year specifically addresses diagnostic issues (fall, spring  semesters). Students develop 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
Electives provide an opportunity for students to customize their clinical experience and are available as lecture, workshops or in online formats. Students also may select electives in research.

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 semester).

Module 2

Integrative Organ Systems and Disease
Clinical medicine surveys the optometric and medical diagnosis and management of commonly encountered systemic conditions. It reviews physical examination, laboratory testing procedures and management strategies of 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, defibrillation and First Aid procedures (summer, fall semesters).

Module 3

Integrative Ocular and Systemic Disease
Presents an extensive discussion of the diagnosis and management of posterior segment (vitreal, choroidal, retinal) conditions (summer, fall semesters).

Module 4

Integrative Neuro-Visual Sciences
Continues with 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 (summer semester).
Culminates in the third year (fall semester) with a discussion of the diagnostic methods (e.g., 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 (summer semester). The sequence proceeds to areas of comitant and non-comitant strabismus, including etiology, prognosis, evaluation, and treatment of various types of strabismus (fall semester).

Special Topics in Environmental Optometry concentrates on the study, management, and control of natural and human factors in the environment that can affect the health and visual status of patients (spring semester).

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 (summer, fall semesters).

Module 6

Principles and Practice of Optometric Medicine
Progressive competencies are developed throughout the third year. Clinical activities and responsibilities associated with professional practice include greater examination efficiency, enhanced diagnostic abilities, and development of appropriate treatment and management plans (summer semester). The  internship program concludes at the end of the fall term of the third professional year with the highest expectation of cognitive, technical, and analytical skills necessary for transition to the more intensive clinical demands of the off-campus externships (fall semester).

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, responsibility for life-long learning and maintaining continuing competency (summer, fall semesters).

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 health care 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, spring semesters).

Module 8

Clinical Externships
Begins February of the third year and proceeds through the entire fourth year. Clinical externships are the culmination of the patient care programs of PCO. The on- and off-campus clinical experiences at the College (Professional Practice 1-
7) during the first 2½ years of the traditional core program prepare the student in the clinical knowledge and skills so that the student can assume the more intensive clinical demands of externships.

The first externship (spring semester) of the third program year is a four (4) month off-campus rotation during the spring of the third professional year. It is usually completed in a private practice setting. The remaining 12-month period (fourth professional year) includes four (4) externships of three (3) or six (6) months’ duration, predominantly in off-campus private practice. A student will complete a minimum of four (4) externships and no more than five (5).
Externships are classified into four (4) categories, each with specific associated educational objectives: The Eye Institute (assignment in primary care, pediatrics/binocular vision or low vision rehabilitation); interprofessional/collabor- ative care; ocular disease, and contact lenses/primary care. More than 160 externship sites have been approved across the United States; some sites are located internationally.

Module 9

Electives
Electives provide an opportunity for students to customize their clinical experience and are available as lecture, workshops or in online formats. Students also may select electives in research.

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 health care 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 (spring semester, Third Year).

07.30.2014