The Southern California College of Optometry (SCCO) is adding a physician assistant program and will be known, as of July 1, as Marshall B. Ketchum University.
Fullerton, CA-The Southern California College of Optometry (SCCO) is adding a physician assistant program and will be known, as of July 1, as Marshall B. Ketchum University. Stanley Woo, OD, will become dean of optometry, and Daniel May, MD, will lead the new physician assistant program. Current SCCO President Kevin Alexander, OD, will manage the new university structure.
“When I started at SCCO in 2008, we began a process of futuring,” says Dr. Alexander. “We looked at demographics, changes in healthcare reform, changes in education, and everything that would potentially impact us. We concluded that we’re not in the optometry education business. We’re really in the healthcare education business. From an education standpoint, particularly as we look at the new schools established in larger medical centers and comprehensive medical campuses, we asked ourselves, what is the future of the standalone, independent college of anything? In our case, it’s a college of optometry. In addition, there’s a real drive to create interprofessional opportunities so people are working as a team to take care of patients.”
Dr. Alexander believes there is great value in diversifying SCCO’s interests, adding programs, and making the school larger. Plans are in the works to add a third program to the university.
“It’s not about making money,” he says. “I don’t know anybody that is making money on educational enterprise. If you’re doing well, you’re breaking even, and it’s paying for itself.”
The school began its expansion with a physician assistant program because such a program would open doors for the school within the medical community. Dr. Alexander believed that partnering with a medical school would not be in the best interests of the optometry school.
“On a large medical campus, the medical school is the top dog,” he says. “They get the funding and preferential treatment. An optometry program with only a few hundred students… how significant will that be? Within a week [of our announcement of the physician assistant program], I got phone calls from hospital administrators saying, ‘We’d like to work with you.’ That never happened before.”
Dr. Alexander is considering other changes as well. He’s very interested in creating an MBA program for ODs and a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree program. The school is in the process of partnering with California State University, Fullerton to offer graduate-level opportunities to those students. The campus will likely see a new building after the third program is added.
“Creating the university isn’t the end point,” he says. “It’s creating the structure so we can add the programs we want. Every program has a strategic value in enhancing the optometric program, and each program elevates the opportunities for optometric education.”ODT