UPike announces optometry school

Times Staff Report

February 28, 2014

PIKEVILLE — The continuing growth of the University of Pikeville came into sharper focus, Wednesday, as the school announced its fourth college.

UPike President Dr. James Hurley was joined by Gov. Steve Beshear in announcing the creation of the Kentucky College of Optometry at the school, which will be the 22nd optometry school in the nation and the first in Kentucky.

“Today’s announcement is a product of this bold vision,” said Hurley. “It was developed by faculty and staff, our trustees, alumni, community stakeholders, and most importantly, our students. Our board of trustees is fully committed to creating this opportunity for a new community of learners. UPike will provide the financial and human resources necessary to have one of the finest colleges of optometry in the nation.”

The American Optometric Association’s Accreditation Council on Optometric Education notified university officials last week that it had voted to designate the University of Pikeville-Kentucky College of Optometry as a “Stage One Applicant.”

Beshear described the announcement as a “monumental accomplishment.”

“For 124 years, this institution has been committed to enhancing the educational, cultural and economic opportunities for Appalachia through quality academic and continuing education programs,” said Beshear.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for optometrists is expected to grow faster than average nationally, by 33 percent through 2020, adding more than 11,000 new positions. Health care reform and an aging population are also expected to impact the need.

“As more people access health care through Medicaid and other programs and as our population ages, the need for medical professionals, including quality optometrists, is expected to increase,” Beshear said. “With this new challenge and this new college, UPike will help meet that need.”

Hurley said a feasibility study has been completed and an advisory committee established to assist the university as it moves forward. A national search for a dean has begun. While UPike already has available many of the facilities necessary to accommodate the Kentucky College of Optometry, plans to build a new educational facility are under way. Sixty students will be admitted per class, for a total of 240. The university expects to welcome the first class in the fall of 2016.

“This institution has been a bright shining star for this region for more than a century,” said UPike board chairman Terry Dotson. “I’ve said this many times – it is the single most important thing that exists in Eastern Kentucky – and it’s more important today than it has ever been.”