Dear IU School of Optometry Faculty, Staff, and Students,
I hope you are safe and healthy during these unprecedented times. The public health crisis has upended what is normal in our daily lives as well as for us trying to deliver an education and for students trying to get one.
Currently, spring semester courses are proceeding online and quickly coming to a close. IUSO Executive Associate Dean Rowan Candy is doing an excellent job coordinating faculty who are providing the online delivery. This has not been ideal, but it has forced all of us to think out of the box and experiment with different approaches. Some worked well and others needed adjustment. Overall, I am proud at how well our faculty have stepped up to deal with these circumstances. They have shown amazing resourcefulness, patience, and creativity.
By spring break, when stay at home directives were beginning, 4th-year students had completed 87.5% of their planned rotations, which has provided ample patient encounters and ability to evaluate performance suitable to graduate. In addition, this has been supplemented by online case analysis and review, which was coordinated by IUSO Externship Director Elli Kollbaum with the help of all clinical faculty.
The usual May Commencement has been canceled. In this regard, Dr. Kim Kohne is in conversations with student leaders about alternate dates. However, it is difficult to plan, given so much uncertainty.
Since clinical training with patient encounters is a core element of an OD degree, we want our clinics and affiliated rotations to begin activities soon, while providing a safe environment for students, faculty, staff, and patients. Residents and faculty have been providing urgent care and they are supported by staff at the clinic or working from home. The governor of Indiana has now allowed optometrists to provide standard care as long as suitable safety precautions are taken. Using CDC guidelines and advice from the AOA, Dr. Neil Pence and clinical faculty have developed a COVID-19 operating procedure that includes triage of patients as well as students, faculty and staff; social distancing and limiting numbers of people in the clinic; strict disinfection routines; and surgical masks to name a few. Currently, our plan at IUSO is to begin regular clinic activities on May 11. This start date is subject to change depending on evolving public health advice and having the necessary protective equipment.
For current 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-year students, critical clinical training labs were suspended and are planned for this summer starting in July. The laser and minor surgery labs will be rescheduled at the end of 4th-year rotations. Except for the labs, courses this summer are online in order to avoid large groups. The small group clinical training labs that start in July will follow the same COVID-19 operating procedures as clinic. IUSO staff have been working hard keeping up with normal school business, but more importantly planning to make sure the building is routinely disinfected and that protective materials are on hand.
Indiana University as a whole is currently planning for fall. As you can imagine, there are several potential scenarios. Face-to-face classes would have many requirements including widespread testing, availability of which is uncertain. A hybrid program with online large classes and small face-to-face group “classes” and labs, similar to what we are planning to do this summer, is a more likely possibility. Whatever is decided, IUSO we will provide education that is essential and safe for all involved.
Thank you all for your cooperation, understanding, and patience as we navigate these unchartered times. Stay safe.
Joseph A. Bonanno, OD PhD
Dean and Professor, IU School of Optometry