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AAO Deems Virtual Clinical Training Program for Optometry Students a Successful Venture

ORLANDO—The American Academy of Optometry (AAO) said an online training program that launched in March has helped more than 2,300 optometry students attend sessions and experience case-based education. The online program began as universities and hospitals suspended routine patient care to prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to an AAO announcement this week. AAO, in partnership with the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO), launched the new virtual clinical education program weeks ago to assist with case-based learning for students, as VMAIL reported

Working with the deans and faculty of optometric schools and colleges, “the program has seen huge success with more than 2,300 students attending sessions from over 25 institutions across the United States and Canada,” the announcement noted.

Academy board president Dr. Barbara Caffery added, “We are thrilled with the response to this program. We have students from more than 26 countries participating in sessions. It is a new model we believe will continue to work for both universities and students well into the future.”

As part of their clinical curriculum, optometry students see patients in clinics, practices, hospitals, and VA settings to gain first-hand patient experience. However, in the current COVID-19 environment, many are unable to continue direct patient care because of safety practices. For this reason, the Academy created the Student Online Clinical Case Education Program (SOCCEP) in a matter of a couple of weeks time, to provide live streamed and/or recorded content for students to continue their education.

Each education session is approximately 30 minutes long, and according to the latest statistics the program has had:

• 139 presenters from universities and industry
• 202 sessions
• 2,331 unique attendees
• 28,731 hours of education
• 41,256 sessions accessed from attendees; averaging 17.5 sessions attended per unique attendee.

While the program was designed to help fourth-year students and residents build on their clinical experience, it is expected to be utilized as a supplemental and continuing education program for others. The organizers said they hope it will also demonstrate to students, residents, and members the commitment of the Academy as a leading contributor to continuing education and professional development.

“We see this as an educational partnership that happened to be born from a crisis, and our members really stepped up to make a difference in the lives of these students by helping them move forward with their education,” Academy chief executive officer Peter Scott said.

“Providing programs like this is part of the Academy’s new strategic plan, and our members can expect to see more programming like this as we continue to evolve.”

For additional information on the Student Online Clinical Case Education Program, visit 
or the ASCO website here.