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Deakin University explores new program to address national optometrist shortage

28 September 2010

Deakin University is looking to expand its health and medical programs with the possible introduction of a new suite of optometry courses.

As a response to the growing and unmet demand for optometrists throughout Australia, Deakin is considering bachelor, graduate entry and masters degrees that could begin in 2012, subject to accreditation by the Optometry Council of Australia and New Zealand.

“Australia is experiencing significant shortages in the optometry workforce, with rural and regional communities the hardest hit. Access Economics estimates that the shortfall in optometrists could be as great as 3,800 FTE by 2026. We will be exploring the opportunities for Deakin to address this workforce shortfall,” explained Professor Jane den Hollander, the new Vice-Chancellor of Deakin University.

“The primary goal of any new Deakin program would be to contribute to and improve the eye health of Australians by creating a cohort of new optometrists who are clinically competent, work ready and motivated to pursue a career in rural and regional areas.

“The program would also need to respond to the industry’s desire for graduates with good communication and business skills as well as technical competence.”

It is envisaged that the program would be run out of a new, $47 million, state-of-the-art teaching and research facility to be built adjacent to the School of Medicine on Deakin’s Geelong Campus at Waurn Ponds.

The curriculum being considered would be strongly industry-related, including counseling and business skills development and there would be a major focus on rural and regional optometry practice and the development of chronic disease prevention and management skills.

“This could be Australia’s first truly ‘national’ program of optometry,” said Professor John Catford, the Dean of Deakin’s Faculty of Health, Medicine, Nursing and Behavioural Sciences.

“Through partnerships with industry leaders, Luxottica and Specsavers, extensive clinical placements could be offered in optometry practices throughout regional Australia. A new ICT learning platform, Deakin Health Online, would also be available to support students while on placement.

“This is an exciting opportunity for Deakin’s rural and regional health programs and could strengthen the University’s commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of all people in Australia and our surrounding region.”

Chris Beer, Luxottica’s Chief Executive Officer for Asia Pacific, Greater China and South Africa, said this is the most significant initiative in the optometry industry in 40 years.

“The shortage of optometrists available, particularly in rural and regional areas, has continued to grow in the absence of additional graduate courses or increased student intake. We welcome the opportunity to help train and develop Deakin University students.

“With more than 700 optometrists as part of our own network, we’re always looking to provide the highest level of education for the continued professional development of our optometrists. We look forward to working with Deakin to assist in providing a solid platform for continued development for students, in optometry practices and patient care.”

Specsavers’ Founder and Chairman, Mr Doug Perkins, said: “Specsavers is pleased to support Deakin’s goal to increase the number of industry-ready optometrists; those who are willing and able to serve the Australian community, particularly in our rural, remote and under-serviced regions.

“We are confident that our optometric practice partners will appreciate the benefits of providing a training network for Deakin University students and we will work with both Deakin and our practice partners to support the development of in-practice placements.”

News facts
  • Deakin looking to offer optometry courses in 2012
  • Courses would help address national optometrist shortage
  • Deakin program would respond to industry needs and have a focus on rural and regional practice

Media contact

Mandi O'Garretty
Deakin Media Relations
03 5227 2776; 0418 361 890
mandi.ogarretty@deakin.edu.au

Deakin University acknowledges the traditional land owners of present campus sites.

28th September 2010