EDUCATION PLUS

Have an eye for a `different' job?

Optometrists complement the role of ophthalmologists.

Optometrists complement the role of ophthalmologists.  

AN Optometrist is not a medical doctor, but is a professional whose role complements that of an ophthalmologist.

His tasks: To determine the nature and extent of vision problems and abnormalities by examining a patient's eyes.

Correct vision defects by prescribing and dispensing glasses or contact lenses, special optical aids such as telescopic and microscopic devices, or through changes in ergonomics at the workplace such as improved lighting, seating arrangement and computer positioning.

Check glasses and contact lenses for accuracy and comfort, and advise patients on how they should be worn and cared for.

Manage minor eye problems and in some cases prescribe therapeutic drugs to treat eye conditions, or refer patients to an ophthalmologist when eye diseases are detected and medical or surgical treatment is required. Give advice on the application of visual standards and contribute to industrial safety programmes.

Examine patients for manifestations of systemic conditions including glaucoma, diabetes, high blood pressure and multiple sclerosis and refer them to medical practitioners. Thus they are often the `first doctors' to diagnose a patient with these problems.

It is estimated that there are approximately 7,000 optometrists in the country. But the number is ``pitiably'' low, compared to the demand. Dr. S. Srinivasan, principal, Elite School of Optometry (ESO), says the job market for optometrists is excellent, at least, for the next 20 years. "The required number is 100 times higher than the available pool today because the main cause for blindness is undetected treatable diseases. If a cadre of optometrists could be created in sufficient numbers, they can take care of many routine visual problems, leaving ophthalmologists to handle more complicated surgical and curative problems," he says.

Established in 1985, the ESO, located on G.S.T. Road, St. Thomas Mount, prides itself as being the only institution in the State offering a four-year degree programme in Optometry. The B.S (Bachelor of Science) is offered in collaboration with the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani.

About the course:

Unique to optometric education is the theory of optics and extensive training in lens design, construction, application and fitting.

And, as optometrists are members of the primary health care team, they must also study human anatomy, general pharmacology, pathology, psychology, biochemistry, statistics and epidemiology much like any other medical student.

Eligibility:

Plus Two from Central/State board or its equivalent with physics, chemistry, mathematics or biology. The admission notice is given by BITS, in May. And from an approximate 2,500 applicants every year, 200 are short-listed for the test and interview at ESO. The results will be announced on the same day. Twenty candidates will be selected. The tuition fee for the eight-semester programme, which includes three years of study and one year of internship, is Rs. 96,000.

Job Prospects:

"Nobody is without a job even before writing their final examination," says R. Krishna Kumar, head of the department, Optometry, ESO.

Opportunities include working as optometrists with opticians, in hospitals, primary health care centres, and contact lens clinics, and as consultants for multinational companies, in R&D in multinational companies, etc.

Elite School of Optometry, 8, G.S.T. Road, St. Thomas Mount, Phone: 2234 6023/2234 4474,

There is also a two-year diploma course run by the Opthalmic School of Optometry, Egmore Eye Hospital.

Sangeeth Kurian

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