Dr. Adam Hickenbotham joins Tusculum’s Niswonger College of Optometry, brings 15 years of experience

Dr. Adam Hickenbotham

Dr. Adam Hickenbotham, a 15-year optometric professional who holds two doctorate degrees and has served in academia, private practice and executive positions in private industry has joined the leadership team of the Niswonger College of Optometry at Tusculum University.

A founding faculty member, Dr. Hickenbotham is the assistant dean for research and chief of surgery at the Niswonger College of Optometry. In addition, he serves as director of institutional research for Tusculum’s expanding and innovative College of Health Sciences.

“Adding Dr. Hickenbotham, who is well-versed in the most up-to-date methods of practice for the optometric profession is another feather in our cap,” said Dr. Andrew Buzzelli, the Niswonger College of Optometry’s founding dean and executive vice president of the College of Health Sciences. “We are focused on developing the premier college of optometry in the nation, one that will lead in research and serve as a model for patient care. Dr. Hickenbotham will play a vital role in accomplishing our goals.”

The Niswonger College of Optometry, created to address the prevalence of ocular disease in Central Appalachia, is engaged in the accreditation process. It has achieved the first stage and has two more to complete with the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education before it can recruit and enroll students. Pending the receipt of preliminary approval for accreditation, Tusculum is projecting to enroll the first class of 70 students in the four-year program in fall 2020.

As part of the accreditation process, the Niswonger College of Optometry has to demonstrate it is ready to accept students. That requirement has led the Niswonger College of Optometry to hire administrators and faculty members and begin renovating the building that will house the teaching and training activities.

“As we proceed toward establishing the Niswonger College of Optometry, Tusculum will have an opportunity to transform medical eye care in the region in partnership with other providers,” Dr. Hickenbotham said. “At the Niswonger College of Optometry we are seeking to transform the training of optometric physicians to align ourselves with the extensive medical training provided by allopathic and osteopathic schools. We can have a lasting impact on future generations, and I am excited to be part of that development.”

Dr. Hickenbotham founded ThruFocus Optics, an ophthalmic medical device company based in Berkeley, California, which is developing innovative new treatments for presbyopia, including a laser surgery currently undergoing clinical trials. Dr. Hickenbotham has been awarded numerous U.S. and international patents in laser medical devices.

During his career, he has owned and operated a private optometry clinic, overseen delivery of on-site medical care at more than 20 skilled nursing facilities, managed refractive surgery clinics, directed marketing efforts for ophthalmology practices and managed clinical trials internationally.

Dr. Hickenbotham also has experience in academic settings, having taught a variety of subjects, including laser surgery, optics, pharmacology, physiology, anatomy and optometric methods. He served as a lecturer and senior engineering adviser for the University of California, Irvine, and as a clinical research scientist and assistant researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. He also has international experience, establishing a LASIK Center in Phuket, Thailand, and serving as an optometry lecturer in optics at Ramkhamhaeng University in Bangkok, Thailand.

He began his teaching career as an elementary and high school teacher in Los Angeles County in California.

Dr. Hickenbotham has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Brigham Young University and a master’s degree in public health and a doctorate in optometry from the University of California, Berkeley. He also has a doctorate in bioengineering as part of a joint program between the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of California, Berkeley.

He was the first optometrist to be accepted into Harvard Medical School’s Surgical Leadership Program and successfully completed the Clinical Research Conduct and Management Program as well as the Clinical Scientist Development Program with the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. Hickenbotham comes to Tusculum from the Kentucky College of Optometry, where he served as an associate professor and a founding faculty member for about 2 ½ years. He served as chairman of the Academic Rank and Promotions Committee and Scholarship and Awards Committee. He also held leadership positions in the Academic Standards Committee and the Admissions Committee.

“The Appalachian region is in dire need of medical eye care providers,” Dr. Hickenbotham said. “We have the highest incidence of blindness in the country here and would benefit greatly with an increase in highly skilled optometric physicians. There is a severe shortage of doctors throughout the country, and optometric physicians must be expertly trained to help alleviate the current health care crisis that we are experiencing, particularly in Appalachia.

“Optometric physicians are primary care providers who are often the first to diagnose cardiovascular diseases, such as diabetes or hypertension, through manifestations in the eye. We, as optometrists, are privileged to improve the quality of life for our patients.”