University of Waterloo School of Optometry

University of Waterloo School of Optometry

The School of Optometry is one of the professional schools at the University of Waterloo. It is housed in the Faculty of Science. It is the larger of the two optometry schools in Canada, and the only facility for English-language optometry instruction in the country. (The Université de Montréal has a French-language optometry program.)


The University of Waterloo School of Optometry opened on July 1, 1967 (the Canadian Centennial). Before this time, optometrists were trained at the College of Optometry of Ontario in Toronto. The size of the program doubled once this affiliation with UW was established. Dr. Edward J. Fisher served as the new school's first dean until 1975. Fisher had been dean of the College of Optometry for 19 years beforehand, and from 1969 to 1970 he served as the 23rd President of the American Academy of Optometry, the first Canadian to serve in that capacity.

Classes and administrative offices were originally based in the Math and Computer building and the Biology 1 buildings at the University in Waterloo. A clinic was established in the old post office at 35 King Street North. In 1973, the Optometry building was built in its present location on the north side of Columbia St, where lecture halls and clinic facilities were available in one place.

The Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree has been a four year program since the 1950's at the College of Optometry of Ontario, where a Grade 13 high school education was sufficient for admission. Since then, the program has remained four years in length, but the curriculum has changed remarkably. Because of this, the prerequisite level of education has also changed: first from a minimum of one year of university science education, then a minimum of two years. Specific courses, encompassing subjects from biology to chemistry to physics to psychology, are also required. These requirements are still changing, and applicants to the school in 2008 will require at least three years of pre-Optometry university education.


The four-year Doctor of Optometry (OD) program provides preparation for the practice of optometry, with both classroom instruction and hands-on experience. Graduates must pass board exams for their home province after graduation in order to practise, as with other health professions. Classes cover the general sciences as well as specific aspects of vision. Extensive clinical experience is provided through the School's clinic, as well as one term of clinical externship and several weeks of off-site training. In 2005, eighty students were admitted to the program; in 2006, that number has increased to 85. As the School prepares for an expansion within the next few years, the class sizes are slowly increasing towards a final maximum of 90.

Graduate studies in Vision Science (MSc, PhD) are available at the School of Optometry. The MSc program was established in 1972 and the PhD program began in 1980. Both are open to graduates from optometry and from other undergraduate programs. The programs are designed to further knowledge in specific aspects of vision, and often this involves integration with the other sciences. A combined Doctor of Optometry–Master of Science in Vision Science option exists as well; this is typically a five-year program.

A two-year Diploma of Residency is available, for individuals who already hold the OD degree but wish to improve and advance their clinical knowledge.

The International Optometric Bridging Program (IOBP) is a new program designed for optometrists trained outside Canada and the USA, to help learning the language, academic, and clinical skills needed to practise in Canada. After an initial assessment of credentials, applicants undergo a month-long orientation program and a year-long academic program. This is designed to adequately prepare internationally-trained optometrists for the Canadian Standard Assessment in Optometry, the national Board exam required to practise optometry in Canada.

Annually, a Continuing Education (CE) program is offered to practising OD's which provides approximately 20 or more certified hours of CE credit.


The School of Optometry is home to a unique clinic that combines practical experience with teaching and research. There are several areas to the clinic:
* Primary Care - routine eye exams, for the majority of people
* Binocular Vision - eye coordination and movement tests, for individuals with a "lazy eye" (amblyopia) or "turned eye" (strabismus)
* Contact Lenses - consultations, fittings, and check ups for contact lens wearers
* Electrodiagnostics - specialized tests of the electrical activity of the eyes and vision centre of the brain
* Ocular Health - specialized examination and treatment of eye diseases
* Optical Services and Dispensing - glasses frames selection, filling of eyewear prescriptions, and adjustments and repairs to glasses
* Paediatric and Special Needs - primary care for children too young to read, as well as those who are cognitively or physically challenged

Research and Graduate Studies

Vision science is a cross-discipline study encompassing biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, psychology, and medicine, in both laboratory and clinical settings. The areas of research at the School [] have been defined as:
* Biomedical Ocular Research
* Contact Lenses
* Low Vision Rehabilitation
* Optometric Education and Practice
* Vision & Ophthalmic Standards
* Visual Development & Refractive Correction

The Optometry building is equipped with research laboratories supported by metal, wood, electronic and optical workshops, a vision science library centre, histology and live-animal housing facilities. Researchers also have controlled access to clinic data and subjects.

The School boasts two centres of research excellence:
* the Centre for Sight Enhancement (Low Vision Services) - services and research for blind and visually impaired individuals
* the Centre for Contact Lens Research - researching various types of contact lenses and solutions, and their effects on the eye


* The School of Optometry has over 1900 alumni
* Nearly 70% of Canada's 3000 optometrists graduated from the School of Optometry
* 100% of UW School of Optometry graduates find employment within 6 months of graduation

External links

* [ University of Waterloo website]
* [ Faculty of Science website]
* [ School of Optometry]
* [ Optometry Learning Resource Centre]
* [ Centre for Contact Lens Research]
* [ Centre for Sight Enhancement]

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