A new virtual reality (VR) training lab at the University of Waterloo’s School of Optometry & Vision Science, will help Canada’s next generation of optometrists learn how to diagnose vision problems and eye diseases more quickly and accurately.
The new lab, funded through an $800,000 investment by national eye care provider FYidoctors, will accelerate the development of essential clinical skills for optometrists. The authentic experience simulates a patient’s eye and provides students with an opportunity to use virtual reality to practice on many cases that range from wellness through to diseases such as macular degeneration and diabetes.
At a total cost of $1.5 million, the FYidoctors Simulation Lab is the first of its kind in Canada and will ensure the School remains at the forefront in optometric education in North America.
“With the simulators, optometry students will now take the time they need to practice and master skills as they progress through increasingly complex training modules,” said Stanley Woo, Director of the School of Optometry and Vision Science at Waterloo. “During valuable lab time, the foundational skills will be better established enabling our faculty to take the students more efficiently from good to great.”
The simulation equipment will supplement real-life training, which is limited. It will also provide hundreds of real patient cases to practice binocular indirect ophthalmoscopy (BIO), which will help students to recognize, identify and diagnose eye and systemic disease more quickly and confidently. FYidoctors leadership support represents the most significant sponsorship every received by the Schools optometry program.
Dr. Al Ulsifer, CEO and Chairman of FYidoctors and Waterloo alumnus, said that this investment isn’t just an investment in the University, but an investment in the future generation of optometrists.
“When we formed FYidoctors 10 years ago, we created it with a vision to enhance the lives of people, in our communities, and across the world. Investing in students, and in their clinical education, will ultimately enhance patient care in the communities in which we serve, and keep Canada at the forefront of optometry and vision science,” said Ulsifer. “Simulation technology is the future of healthcare learning and is directly aligned with FYidoctors spirit of harnessing innovation to help our patients lead more fulfilling lives.”
Ulsifer led the formation of FYidoctors in 2008 with a dynamic group of University of Waterloo optometry grads who had the vision to create an optometrist-led chain of eye-care clinics. Today, FYidoctors is the country’s largest doctor-owned eyecare provider, and invest heavily in technology to ensure its clinics deliver exceptional care to their patients.
The lab will initially include 5 Eyesi® Binocular Indirect Ophthalmoscopes (BIO), a state of the art augmented reality simulator for training of retinal examinations, which provides a highly realistic and dynamic 3D simulation of the anatomical structures of the eye and ophthalmoscope optics.
Phase two of the lab, to be unveiled at a later date, will include the addition of the Eyesi® Slit Lamp simulators. This technology will allow students to practice basic handling of the device and skills required to conduct a corneal exam, retinal exam, Gonioscopy and Tonometry. Through multi-tiered training provided by the Slit Lamp simulation technology, it will promote pattern recognition for retinal pathologies and provide competency-based assessments.
With Eyesi® BIO and Slit Lamp technology, students can examine a wide range of clinically relevant cases before they meet their first real patient. The simulated cases are based on real patient histories and were developed in cooperation with universities and eye specialists.
Simulation technology provides an authentic experience that offers the look and feels for the diagnostic skills of BIO and slit lamp examination. Students can practice as much as they need to reach certain milestones in a modular system that progresses in difficulty and complexity. The process begins with mastering the technical skills to image the fundus, and later incorporates real cases and images for examination and diagnosis. The goal is to use precious laboratory time with faculty to transition students from good foundational skills to great diagnostic skills.
Conditions and diseases that can be assessed and diagnosed through the simulation technology range from wellness through diseases. The simulation technology focuses on looking in the back of the eye to identify a wide variety of eye and health-related problems.
- Reviewing and assessing healthy eyes
- Trauma – concussion
- Foreign bodies
- Amblyopia – lazy eye, a vision development disorder
- Uveitis – inflammation of the middle layer of the eye
- Keratoconus (curving of the lens)
- Detached retina
- Macular degeneration
The University of Waterloo is one of two optometry schools in Canada, making the University of Waterloo a national resource for training vision care professionals and vision science researchers.