Dr of Optometry

 

Introduction

In 2008, the Institute of Optometry and London South Bank University started an exciting new collaboration when they launched a Doctor of Optometry degree, for part-time study by qualified optometrists. Recruitment is now underway for the second year intake and this article summarises this important development for the optometric profession.

Professional Doctorates are novel approaches to integrating professional and academic knowledge and the students are typically experienced qualified professionals. Although quite new to optometry, professional doctorates have been commonplace for some years in several professions, including clinical psychology, teaching, engineering, medicine, and business administration. Students undertaking a professional doctorate are expected to make a contribution to both theory and practice in their field, and to develop professional practice by making a contribution to professional knowledge.

Institute of Optometry and London South Bank University collaboration The Institute of Optometry was established as the London Refraction Hospital in 1922 and changed its name to the Institute of Optometry in 1989. It is a self-financing charitable organisation dedicated to the promotion of clinical excellence, research, and education in optometry. The senior staff at the Institute have long recognized that a Professional Doctorate in Optometry would represent an important development for the profession. The Institute is proud of its independent status, but also enjoys close collaborative links with other organisations. For example, the Institute continues to participate in collaborative research with City University.

London South Bank University (LSBU) is less than five minutes walk from the Institute of Optometry and has an excellent reputation for training healthcare professionals in its internationally renowned Faculty of Health and Social Care. In 2007 LSBU launched a Professional Doctorate programme for nurses, and was keen to expand this to other healthcare professionals. Negotiations between the Institute of Optometry and LSBU rapidly established a good working relationship and in 2008 the Professional Doctorate was extended to other allied healthcare professionals including optometrists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and radiographers.

A key issue for the Institute is that the title that will be awarded to the optometrists at the end of the professional doctorate programme is Doctor of Optometry (D. Optometry). It is thefirst professional doctorate to carry this name in the UK.

The Professional Doctorate Programme

London South bank University
The Institute of Optometry & LSBU Professional Doctorate is a five year programme, the first two years of which are taught. These two 'taught' years involve students attending LSBU for 8 days a year (Wednesdays), plus a week long summer school, and carrying out coursework in their own time.

The first year concentrates on knowledge, research paradigms and methods and on delivering an evidence-based service. During the first year students are encouraged to start thinking about an idea that they will be interested in researching for their main project, from years 3-5. The second year is also taught and at this stage students start developing their research idea, carrying out a literature review of their chosen topic, a critical review of their proposed research methods, and preparing an application for a research ethics committee.

The taught sessions in the first year are shared with the other healthcare professions and students in the current first year have found this interaction to be an important benefit of the course. During the first year, the Institute of Optometry provides additional support to the Dr Optometry students including some tutorials at the Institute of Optometry.

The Institute's involvement increases in the second year, with a greater input into the taught sessions and the coursework. The second year coursework helps the students to develop their research expertise so that, in the third year, they have a very clear idea what their project will entail. When they enter the third year the students should be in a position to start work on the project without the delays that often beset students carrying out, for example, research for a PhD.

Years 3-5 are spent on the research project, with each student being jointly supervised by staff at the Institute of Optometry and at LSBU. The topic for the research project is decided during the second year following discussions between the supervisors and student, with the supervisors helping the student to ensure that their project choice is clearly defined and achievable. It is anticipated that many students will carry out the research in their own workplace, whether an optometric practice, hospital environment, or industrial setting. The projects are likely to cover a wide range of subjects, including clinical care, service provision, physiological optics, and could even include healthcare economics or workforce issues.

It is anticipated that the student will allocate about one day a week to the research project during years 3-5. Regular meetings will take place with the supervisory team, although for students who are not local to London much of the supervision may be possible by email and telephone conversations. The project will be written up as a thesis (40,000 to 50,000 words) and presented at a viva voce examination.

In summary, the programme offers participants the opportunity to develop research skills and to apply them to professional practice by independent research. The doctoral programme, therefore, provides participants with an opportunity to make a significant contribution to practice and to improve delivery of service and practice performance.

The student's perspective by Peter Campbell I have been qualified 10 years and have been thinking over the last few years of combining my work as a community optometrist with becoming involved in research. The professional doctorate programme has given me the opportunity to do this without the daunting prospect of embarking on a full time PhD. The series of one day seminars held throughout the first year of the programme has allowed me to continue working full time in practice. The coursework is very much centred towards service improvement in practice so this has allowed me to carry out some of the research whilst at work. For one of my assignments I conducted some short interviews with patients regarding referring for glaucoma. I was able to carry these out at the end of the patient's eye examination provided I wasn't running late! One of the great strengths of the course is the opportunity to work alongside other allied health professionals. For me, getting to grips with understanding evidence-based medicine has been challenging, but I'm sure this will help me later when I start my thesis.

Peter Campbell is a community optometrist working in East London who enrolled on the D. Optometry course in 2008.

Entry requirements & fees

Applicants will be required to have the following qualifications and experience:-

1. A recognised professional qualification in optometry and registration with the General Optical Council. Optometrists from other EU countries can apply, as long as they are registered with the appropriate regulatory body in their country and have adequate English language skills to cope with the course.

2. A Masters degree in optometry or related subject and at least three years full time experience in a relevant professional area OR a first or upper second class honours degree in optometry and at least four years of full time experience (or equivalent).

3. Evidence of continuing professional development which has included producing work of an academic standard at the equivalent of Masters level. This may include publications or written reports related to professional practice. Examples that would be likely to be suitable include College of Optometrists higher diplomas, articles in journals or clinical magazines, or reviews or other documents (e.g., PCT commissioning documents), surveys, audits, etc. Optometrists who have completed and passed the examination in one module of a modular MSc would be considered.

Potential students who are not sure if they meet the entry requirements are invited to contact Professor Bruce Evans (bruce.evans@virgin.net), or Professor Rishi Agarwal (agarwalrishik@gmail.com), at the Institute of Optometry.

Fees
fees for the 2009 intake are to be confirmed, but are likely to be in the region of 2,600 per annum. This is the total amount per annum, comprised of two components, one payable to London South Bank University and one to the Institute of Optometry.

Interviews will take place in September with enrolment and induction on 30th September 2009. Further information and an application form can be obtained from Joan Wade (courses@ioo.org.uk; 020 7234 9659)

About the authors

Professor Bruce Evans completed his PhD in 1991. He is Director of Research at the Institute of Optometry and Visiting Professor to City University and to London South Bank University. He has published over 180 papers, book chapters, and books and frequently lectures to optometric audiences on a variety of subjects.

Professor Rishi Agarwal completed his PhD in optometry from City University He is Director of Post Graduate Education at the Institute of Optometry and Visiting Professor to the Faculty of Health and Social Care at London South Bank University. He has been pursuing the goal of a Doctor of Optometry degree in the UK for over four decades and initiated negotiations with the LSBU which led to the launch of the first programme in the UK.

Dr Sandip Doshi was awarded his PhD in 1998. He is Director of Education at the Institute of Optometry and is well-known to the optometric profession through his work as CET co-ordinator for Optometry Today between 1994 and 1996. Following this he was Clinical Editor of Optician magazine between 1997 to 2000 and for his authorship of several journal articles and optometric books. He is the lead series editor of Eye Essentials a major series of books in optometry published by Elsevier Science.