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Upstate and SUNY partnering for optometry education program

A multi-story building with windows
Upstate Hospital
Upstate Medical University
Cars drive under the sky bridge that connects the parking garage to the Upstate Medical University Hospital in downtown Syracuse.

Upstate Medical University and SUNY College of Optometry are creating a partnership to develop an eye care education program in Central and Western New York.

The partnership aims to create a doctorate of optometry degree, collaborative vision research, easier access to eye care and other opportunities in the two regions of New York.

Dr. David A. Heath, president of the New York City-based SUNY College of Optometry, said in a statement he hopes the partnership creates a good foundation for the future of health care in

“Being part of the SUNY system provides unique opportunities to participate in solving challenges and we are looking forward to partnering with Dr. Dewan and his team to provide a greater resource for the upstate region," Heath said, referring to the president of Upstate Medical University, Dr. Mantosh Dewan.

In a news release, Dewan also praised the collaboration.

“We are delighted to bring the world-class expertise of SUNY Optometry to enrich Upstate’s internationally-recognized Department of Ophthalmology and Center for Vision Research," Dewan said. "By serving as their extension campus, we will increase the number of eye care professionals available to serve our communities.”

There is an urgent need for eye doctors and optometrists in New York State, as many people are in need of eye care for a number of reasons and health conditions. In addition to a high demand for eye care, a 2010 study from SUNY College of Optometry found that 25 percent of practicing optometrists in Central New York are considering retirement within the next five years.

Now that a partnership is forming between two SUNY colleges, the single school of optometry in New York state hopes to offer a more affordable option for students who already live in the state.

The program is set to start in the fall of 2025 with an estimated 30 students practicing optometry.

Andrew MacBeath is a digital content editor at WAER.