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New York Universities Announce Sweeping Partnership Aimed at Eyecare Workforce Needs

SUNY College of Optometry will offer an extension program at SUNY Upstate Medical University, 250 miles away from its Manhattan campus.




New York Universities Announce Sweeping Partnership Aimed at Eyecare Workforce Needs
Source: SUNY College of Optometry

The State of New York College of Optometry in Manhattan is the only place in the entire Empire State where you can earn a Doctor of Optometry degree.

It has been that way for more than 50 years since the institution was founded in 1971.

That status quo is getting a welcome upgrade.

New York Universities Announce Sweeping Partnership Aimed at Eyecare Workforce Needs

Dr. David A. Heath (right), president of SUNY College of Optometry, and Mantosh Dewan, MD, president of SUNY Upstate Medical University, are joining forces to address eyecare workforce needs and access in Upstate New York.

SUNY College of Optometry and SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse recently announced a multi-pronged partnership intended to address the growing eyecare needs across the state, in particular the needs of those in the central and western regions. The agreement includes the creation of an extension program which will offer a Doctor of Optometry degree at the Syracuse campus.

“We are addressing several critical issues through this partnership – the future of health care delivery with an interdisciplinary focus, collaborative research opportunities to improve eye and vision care, and the regional workforce shortage,” says Dr. David A. Heath, President for SUNY College of Optometry, in a press release.


Besides the extension program, the partnership also includes:

  • Collaborative vision research
  • Improved access to eyecare
  • Addresses the need for more eyecare professionals in Upstate New York
  • Increased economic opportunities in the region
  • Provides a potentially more affordable option for optometry students

“We are delighted to bring the world-class expertise of SUNY Optometry to enrich Upstate’s internationally recognized Department of Ophthalmology and Center for Vision Research. By serving as their extension campus, we will increase the number of eye care professionals available to serve our communities,” said Mantosh Dewan, MD, president of Upstate Medical University. “This also fulfills Upstate’s goal to deepen partnerships with other SUNY schools and to increase the breadth of health professional programs offered by Upstate Medical University.”

New York Universities Announce Sweeping Partnership Aimed at Eyecare Workforce Needs

Source: SUNY Upstate Medical University

The extension degree program will begin in 2025. It will mirror the current College of Optometry program. The inaugural class is estimated to include about 30 students.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the employment of optometrists nationwide to grow 10% from 2021 to 2031. This is twice the average rate for all occupations. The job outlook for optometrists includes 1,700 openings per year on average over the next decade. Most of those openings will be made available via eyecare professionals leaving the field either through an occupation change or retirement.

The national data is in line with a recent survey conducted by SUNY College of Optometry.


According to the college, “25% of optometrists practicing in the region anticipate retiring within the next five years, an increase over the previous survey conducted in 2010.”

U.S. News & World Report currently ranks optometrist No. 33 on its list of the top 100 careers. Optometrist also ranks 13th in Best Health Care Jobs and 21st in Best Paying Jobs.

“By bringing together researchers and doctors from our College of Optometry and Upstate Medical, we can more effectively connect eye care with hundreds of related health conditions,” says SUNY Chancellor John B. King, Jr. “This exciting ground for doctors will broaden opportunities for students considering a career in healthcare.”


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