During the last year of the
professional curriculum, students may spend two terms in private or group
practice offices of optometrists or ophthalmologists, in co-management referral
centers, in hospitals (e.g., VA, Indian Health, Military), rural health centers
or other settings conducive to hands-on training. The purpose of the Externship
Program is to provide UAB students with direct clinical experience in the
diagnosis, treatment and management of ocular disease, as well as the
pre-operative and post-operative care of patients. Also, depending on the site,
experience may be gained in the specialty areas of optometry (e.g., contact
lenses, low vision, pediatric and binocular vision, sports vision), and in the
co-management of patients.
History of the Program
The Externship Program at the UAB School of Optometry was begun in 1989 by Dr.
John Amos, Director of Residencies, Dr. Lester Caplan, Assistant Dean for
Clinical Services, and Dr. James Beisel, who was the first Director of the
program. Impetus for the development of externships was provided by a concern
that students be afforded the best possible opportunity to participate in the
clinical treatment of eye disease. Although most states permitted optometrists
to treat ocular diseases with therapeutic pharmaceutical agents (TPAs) at the
time, Alabama did not have such a law (it was not passed until 1995). For UAB
students to gain formally documented TPA experience, patient encounters were
necessary in off-campus clinics and practices at which TPAs were prescribed.
Concurrently, the 1988-89 academic year marked the first year of a dramatic
modification in the professional curriculum.