Commencing in 2021, the University of Western Australia (UWA) will offer the state’s first Doctor of Optometry (DOpt) post-graduate degree to tackle an increase in eye complications from chronic diseases and conditions suffered by Australians.
The new degree, open to 60 students, is a partnership between UWA, Lions Eye Institute and optometry industry leaders, and will broaden the scope of health practitioner courses to produce more vitally needed professionals, said Professor Rhonda Clifford, head of UWA’s School of Allied Health. “Our new degree will help address the undersupply of eye care professionals in Western Australia, while helping with the distribution of practitioners in regional and remote parts of the state.”
Students will gain hands-on patient experience through extended clinical placements with industry partners including Lions Eye Institute and its Lions Outback Vision division, Specsavers and Luxottica, across metropolitan, regional and remote areas of Western Australia.
Optometry Australia, however, raised concerns about future employment opportunities and did not support the development of the new course. OA president and WA optometrist, Darrell Baker said, “We are most disappointed to hear another optometry school is being established in Australia. Despite a recent report that there is an undersupply of optometrists in the foreseeable future, our research and key workforce indicators clearly indicate the opposite. One of the key issues our members raise with us is their concerns that the profession is fast tracking toward an oversupply.”
UWA has applied to the Optometry Council of Australia and New Zealand for the DOpt course to be recognised as a qualification leading to registration as an optometrist in Australia or New Zealand. The course is currently not accredited.
See also UK apprenticeship controversy, http://eyeonoptics.co.nz/articles/archive/uk-apprenticeship-controversy/