Pellissippi State Community College has received a grant from the Trinity Health Foundation of East Tennessee to study the feasibility of a new program for certified ophthalmic technicians.
The grant, one of 26 the Trinity Health Foundation awarded this year, is for the college’s proposal “New Insight: Seeing a Brighter Future with Ophthalmic Technician Training.” The $15,000 funding was announced at a luncheon for grant recipients June 3.
Pellissippi State will spend the next year exploring the need for both a degree and a certificate program for certified ophthalmic technicians aimed at meeting eye-care needs in rural East Tennessee. COTs work under the supervision of an ophthalmologist, a physician specializing in medical and surgical eye problems, to perform clinical evaluations and office tasks like vision tests and photography.
“With an aging population, it’s anticipated that the demand for accessible eye care will continue to grow, too,” said Lisa Stamm, dean of Nursing at Pellissippi State and the person who will oversee the exploratory study. “If this study demonstrates that there is a significant need in our area for certified ophthalmic technicians, Pellissippi State would seek additional grant funding to get approval for that new program, start the curriculum and equip a training lab.”
Only one other college in Tennessee, Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin, offers training in ophthalmic technology.
“Nationally, the need for COTs is expected to grow by 36 percent by the year 2020,” Stamm said. “Creating more ophthalmic technicians will increase access to eye care in East Tennessee.”
The grant study will include employer surveys to local optometrists and ophthalmologists to assess the need for a COT program, as well as visits to other higher education institutions that have similar programs. If the program is deemed needed and is approved, Pellissippi State will work with an advisory board of eye-care professionals to provide input on curriculum, student learning outcomes, and effectiveness of the program.
The $15,000 in funding is a phase-one, exploratory grant from Trinity Health Foundation. Pellissippi State will be eligible to apply for a phase-two, implementation grant, worth $150,000, which could provide enough money to equip a laboratory to train certified ophthalmic technicians.
The grant funds are processed through the Pellissippi State Foundation, which works to provide student scholarships and emergency loans as well as to improve facilities and secure new equipment. For more information about the Foundation, visit www.pstcc.edu/foundation or call (865) 694-6528. For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call (865) 694-6400.