The Niswonger College of Optometric Medicine at Tusculum University has taken another step forward with a national oversight agency concluding the program has completed the first phase in the accreditation process.
The Accreditation Council on Optometric Education has granted the Niswonger College of Optometric Medicine the pre-accreditation classification of “Stage One Applicant.” That clears the way for Tusculum to advance to Stage Two, which consists of a self-study and other requirements. The university must complete three stages before the Niswonger College of Optometric Medicine can recruit and enroll students.
“This is a significant achievement in our commitment to address ocular disease, which is a major issue in Appalachia,” said Dr. James Hurley, Tusculum’s president. “The Niswonger College of Optometric Medicine will be transformative not only for the university but also the region. We’re grateful to the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education for advancing us to this stage and look forward to further conversations with this agency as we move forward with this necessary health care initiative.”
The university has identified fall 2020 as its start date, pending Accreditation Council on Optometric Education approval, for enrolling the first class of 70 students in the four-year program. When the Niswonger College Of Optometric Medicine begins classes, it will hold preliminary approval status for accreditation. The program cannot apply for full accreditation until it has graduated its inaugural class.
In determining Stage One applicant status, the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education evaluated the Niswonger College Of Optometric Medicine’s proposal based on several criteria, including public need, resources available to the program and career opportunities for graduates.
“Tusculum University is extremely proud to have passed this first, very challenging and critical step in the process toward eventual accreditation,” said Dr. Andrew Buzzelli, an optometrist and founding dean of the Niswonger College of Optometric Medicine. “Our creation of the College of Health Sciences has been a bold venture, and the university has shown its determination and ability for it to succeed by immediately starting a new college of optometric medicine.
“The Board of Trustees has chosen to marry our 225-year legacy of civic engagement to our desire to provide not only health care education but also health care accessibility to Northeast Tennessee, Appalachia and other parts of rural America.”
Dr. Buzzelli said Tusculum is diligently working on submission of the self-study to become a Stage Two applicant. This is a robust report that will address how Tusculum will meet a wide variety of standards applying to faculty, facilities, policies, processes, curriculum, resource availability and other matters to ensure the Niswonger College Of Optometric Medicine will be ready for students on the first day of classes.
“Dr. Hurley has full confidence in our ability to develop an innovative program that will equally serve the great profession of optometry, Tusculum’s exceptional civic arts learning environment and the outstanding residents of the communities our university serves,” Dr. Buzzelli said. “We have worked nonstop since we shared the exciting news that we are bringing a college of optometric medicine to Tusculum, and we will be thrilled to host our first white-coat ceremony on campus once we have secured the necessary approvals.”
Tusculum University, the first higher education institution in Tennessee and the 28th oldest in the nation, provides a comprehensive education in a Judeo-Christian environment, grounded in a civic, liberal and medical arts curriculum with pathways for career preparation, personal development and civic engagement. About 1,800 students are enrolled on the main campus in Greeneville, at locations in Knoxville and Morristown and in online programs.
Information for the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education is: Address: 243 N. Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63141—telephone: 314-991-4100.