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$33M Complex Proposed for Oklahoma College of Optometry

The project would more than double the college’s existing space.

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NSU optometry building
A rendering of the exterior of the proposed new home of the Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry.

Northeastern State University has begun raising funds for a new Oklahoma College of Optometry facility.

“It is time our nationally recognized program has facilities that reflect the first-class instruction, graduates and community services that have become synonymous with the Oklahoma College of Optometry over the past four decades,” NSU President Steve Turner said. “The time has come for this top-rated program to move to a facility that matches its reputation.

The project is expected to cost $33 million, according to a press release from NSU. That includes $26 million for construction, as well as funding for architectural/engineering and furniture, fixtures and equipment.

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Turner said the goal is to raise half of the total cost of the project through private donations, with the remainder to be funded with institutional infrastructure reserves, auxiliary revenues and a revenue bond.

“The Oklahoma College of Optometry is known across the world as a leader in optometry when caring for disease and advanced procedures,” said Dr. Nathan Lighthizer, associate dean for the Oklahoma College of Optometry. “We’ve got the reputation, we’ve got the education, we’ve got the patient care. This will give us the facility that matches that reputation.”

He said a new facility will expand the availability of comprehensive vision services that many Oklahomans rely on. Through decades-long partnerships with the Cherokee Nation, the Oklahoma School for the Blind and other entities more than 40,000 patient encounters per year receive primary and specialty eye care from one of several NSUOCO clinics throughout Oklahoma.

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In addition, Lighthizer said that in the competitive environment for prospective optometry school applicants, a new facility would help as it would allow more space for instruction, the hosting of continuing education conferences and new technology.

According to the release:

After four years of planning, NSU officials are proposing the construction of a 101,500-square-foot complex for the college across from NSU’s Branscum Alumni Center located at the intersection of North Cedar Avenue and Crafton Street in Tahlequah. The new facility will feature state-of-the-art equipment, up-to-date classroom technology, specialized clinics for low vision, vision therapy, vision rehabilitation, primary care and contact lenses, as well as a surgical suite for Oklahoma optometry’s expanded scope of practice.

The proposed facility is more than double the existing space for the Oklahoma College of Optometry in the original W.W. Hastings Hospital built by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1936.  Lighthizer said a building that is 80-plus years old, despite being beautiful on the exterior, certainly has limitations and daily issues. He added that for the college to continue to provide and build upon the high-level instruction and patient care the college is known for, new facilities are necessary.

“We need the support to make this happen,” Lighthizer said. “It will strengthen our community. It will strengthen northeast Oklahoma and only build upon the reputation of a world-class program.”

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