A message to the optometry community

Friday, April 3, 2020

Professor Stan Woo, Director of the University of Waterloo, School of Optometry and Vision ScienceTo our optometry community,

Like many of your practices, COVID-19 has forced the closure of the School, so I’m writing to you from home.

I know that many of you are facing unprecedented challenges right now. You’re on the frontlines of this crisis, providing urgent care to your patients, counselling them remotely and stepping up to help those in need ─ all while experiencing the frustration of not being able to fully function in your practice. 

We understand the difficulties you’re facing and we’re doing our best to provide support locally and beyond. One small example is the COVID-19 urgent care tracking log project.  The Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO), with thanks to Drs. Joshua Smith, Angela Yoon and CEO Justin Brown, is spearheading the effort with a log sheet to track urgent care provided by optometrists  The Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO) has lent its support and we’re now gathering logs from across the country at: covid.eyecare@uwaterloo.ca

Our response to COVID-19

I also wanted to share our efforts to protect and support our students, faculty, staff and patients.

The University of Waterloo is taking steps to safeguard our people and has moved all in-person classes on-line. Our faculty and staff are working hard to shift their classes and create meaningful assignments for students so they can complete their term. We’re especially appreciative of our clerkship preceptors for their understanding and flexibility.  

Our clinic, like many of yours, is open for urgent care appointments only and we are truly grateful to our residents, faculty and staff who are taking care of our patients’ critical eye and vision care needs. We’re working with community ophthalmologists to create a triage pathway that will keep people away from hospital, too. 

Research activity has also transitioned to remote work to the greatest extent possible and we are working with our vision science graduate students to ensure that they can meet important milestones.

Impact on students

The most significant impact of the COVID-19 directives is on our optometry students’ clinical rotations/experiences. Unfortunately, there are still many unknowns about how we will be able to take the next steps. We are working with our US counterparts, the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE), and the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) on this challenge that affects all North American optometry programs.

Our fourth-year optometry students will graduate on time. This is the good news.  However, the OEBC entry to practice examination has been postponed indefinitely in the interests of health and safety.  We continue to advocate for graduating optometry students planning to practice in Canada through Federation of Optometric Regulatory Authorities of Canada (FORAC/FAROC).    

Finally, the University will not be holding an in-person Convocation ceremony in June 2020. While disappointing for our students, we will explore other ways to celebrate the successful completion of their programs at another date. 

Impact on our Continuing Education (CE) program

We have made the difficult decision to postpone our June CE weekend. I know this will be a concern for many of you who require CE credit for license renewal. However, we are looking to reschedule for the fall and will deliver 20 hours of CE through online and in-person programming before the end of December 2020.

Our Advanced Procedures for Optometry course is still scheduled for August 27-30. Please visit our website for up-to-date information.

Staying in touch

I’ll be keeping in touch with periodic updates as things evolve. Lisa and the kids are well, my parents are hunkered down in Hong Kong and in good health and good spirits.  We wish you all the best to you, your families, and your teams.  Stay safe and be well.  I hope you’ll stay in touch too. 

Our optometry family is resilient, resourceful and caring. I know that we will weather this storm together, and emerge the stronger for it.

Thank you for your commitment to your patients, your profession and your community. I appreciate all that you are doing during these extraordinary times.

Sincerely,

Stan's signature

Stanley Woo
Director, School of Optometry & Vision Science

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