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NECO Hosts Second Industry Collaborative

Industry leaders, educators, and students collaborate to improve the future of eye care.

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NECO Hosts Second Industry Collaborative

(PRESS RELEASE) BOSTON, MA — The New England College of Optometry (NECO) held the second Industry Collaborative on August 29 and 30 in Boston and hosted over 100 attendees from the eye care industry, health care, media and academia to share their expertise, debate innovations, and discuss the need for optometry and optometric education to adapt to better serve patient needs.

Howard Purcell, OD, FAAO – NECO president and CEO welcomed attendees at the Cambridge Innovation Center August 29. He challenged attendees to think differently, to be open to new ideas, to one another, and to be inspired to create positive change for the future of optometry. “NECO must prepare today’s optometrists for tomorrow’s optometry,” Dr. Purcell stated. “With collaborative efforts from private practice optometrists, retail optical companies, eyewear, pharmaceutical and equipment industry partners, media, researchers, students, and educators, the Industry Collaborative is one way we can move optometry forward together.”

Topics included rethinking refraction, the pace at which the industry is evolving, the legislative implications for the profession, the student experience, the importance of connection across industry partners, and the investment of industry partners in education and innovation.

Gary Chu, OD, MPH, FAAO – NECO vice president, Professional Affairs, discussed how to actively imbed new ways of thinking and doing into organizations. Dr. Chu recently introduced the Innovation Center at NECO, a space where ideation, collaboration, testing, and validation of technology and solutions to health care issues are welcomed. We invite entrepreneurs, industry partners, students, and faculty to join in our innovation practice through research activities and programs.

As Dr. Chu introduced a panel of executives to debate telehealth and the role of refraction in optometry, he reminded attendees, “we may disagree, but it’s through different perspectives we all learn.” The group of industry leaders challenged one another on the balance of patient-centric care and accessibility to care. “Rethinking Refraction” featured Dr. Chu with Joseph C. Kvedar MD, American Telemedicine Association and Harvard Medical School professor; Digital Optometrics founder, Howard Fried OD; Terri Gossard OD, trustee of the American Optometric Association; Steve Lee OD, MBA of VisionPros; and Shivang Dave PhD, Founder, and CEO of PlenOptika. Participants agreed there is a role for industry and associations in validating patient outcomes with new technologies and services and that the processes for doing so can be improved. There was discussion of the industry lagging in acceptance of innovative technology and as a result, lacking funding to drive innovation, which is considered a recipe for disruption.

The second day of the Collaborative kicked off with the student perspective. Current NECO students discussed bridging the gap between students and industry leaders, the international, national, and state legislative impact on the practice of optometry, and the role debt will play in their decision-making post education. Students included Greta Pucci (fourth year Doctor of Optometry student), Sara Masood (third year Doctor of Optometry student), Matt Beaulieu (third year Doctor of Optometry), Jnanendra Vegesna AODP (Accelerated Doctor of Optometry Program), and Emely Miniño Soto (second year Doctor of Optometry student).

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Industry attendees and students advocated for more connection throughout their four years at NECO. Different biomedical companies, like Novartis, are eager to collaborate with NECO students beyond the patient-care side of optometry school, bridging research and learning.

And as Erik Weissberg OD, FAAO, NECO vice president and Dean, Academic Affairs shared, “Optometry programs have flexibility in how we organize a student’s education to achieve our educational objectives. This creates opportunities to offer extracurricular activities in order to allow students to take advantage of professional connections and career opportunities before they graduate. Industry is able to provide many of these impactful experiences.”


Students have historically been exposed to industry partners, but as eye care evolves so too must the way we present students these opportunities. Third year student Sara Masood spoke to this during the presentation. “As a NECO student, I participate in many student groups and events. We regularly collaborate with industry partners and optometric associations, but there is always room for partners to initiate engagement with us through on- and off-campus programming or collaborations. As students, we aren’t always aware of the shifting industry beyond our experience, so it is just as important for external groups to connect with us as it is for us to connect with you.”

The Collaborative was closed out with a final discussion led by Dr. Purcell and Marc Ferrara, CEO of Jobson Optical Group and with industry professionals and executives on how the industry can better collaborate with students and schools to address gaps in preparedness. Taking part were Charissa Lee OD, MBA, FAAO head of North America Professional Affairs at J&J Vision; Pratil Lal, OD, MBA senior director of Medical and Professional Affairs at Warby Parker; Vernon Dela Cruz, University & Student Relations manager at VSP Global; Jill Saxon OD, FAAO executive director, Professional Strategy at Bausch + Lomb; Chris Lee MS, MBA Medical Science Liaison for Topcon Healthcare Solutions; and Steven Rosinski OD Senior Manager, Professional & Academic Affairs at CooperVision. The panel indicated there is further need for advances in business acumen in graduates and improved systems of professional development post-graduation.

“The Industry Collaborative brought together individuals from over 60 organizations to challenge one another to think differently about innovation within optometry,” said Gary Chu, “We are all limited by our personal experience. The objective of the Industry Collaborative is to expand awareness and understanding of the beliefs and experiences of others to accelerate adoption of innovative ideas, technologies and services that will benefit our profession and our patients.”

Overall, the second Industry Collaborative presented a wide spectrum of challenges and solutions for the optometry profession. Colleagues from across the industry helped to make this an engaging experience and one that produced both answers and questions to be addressed in an ongoing dialog this year and at next year’s Industry Collaborative.

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