Optometry Students Perform Vision Screening on Incoming Dental Students

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November 03, 2023 | Midwestern University

Interdepartmental collaboration between optometry students and incoming dental students is an integral part of a Midwestern University education.

As part of Midwestern University’s commitment to the One Health Initiative and interprofessional education, optometry students performed several vision tests as part of a binocular vision screening on incoming dental students at the University’s Eye Institute in Downers Grove, Illinois and Glendale, Arizona. The vision tests included visual acuity (the eye’s ability to see details on an object from a certain distance and identify shapes), retinoscopy (a test for refractive eye errors such as astigmatism, nearsightedness, and farsightedness), and depth perception. The first-year dental students were measured for their dental loupes, a magnification tool. They were also informed if they needed a further exam by an optometrist, and if they were showing signs of underlying conditions. The dental and optometry students interacted with each other and learned more about each other’s field of healthcare.

Downers Grove optometry students conducted a variety of vision tests on incoming dental students.

Jenelle Mallios, O.D., FAAO, Associate Dean, Chicago College of Optometry (CCO) said, “One thing we often discuss in our programs is the patient is not just the one physical attribute that we’re examining. A lot of the conditions we see work with multiple professions. This screening is working with the dental program. When they’re using their loupes, a lot of what the dental students need to do is use their eyes together as a team. Their focusing system needs to work well and work efficiently. In order for the dental students to do their job, we want to rule out any vision issues. We want to help them be as successful as they can be in their dental career, both as a student and a professional.” If an issue is found, students can get a comprehensive eye exam or undergo further testing for vision therapy, Dr. Mallios said. Vision therapy involves weekly 45-minute sessions with exercises to strengthen how the eyes work together, and the sessions can go on for a few months or longer depending on the severity of the issue. “We’re helping the dental students be more successful in their own program,” Dr. Mallios said.

In addition, this event promotes interdepartmental collaboration. “It helps for optometry students to understand the needs of dental students. The students will be working together in the future, and allowing dental students to gain a broader perspective on optometry, Collaborating and meeting one another during this event is an essential step in forming relations that will carry into their future careers,” Dr. Mallios said. The screening also prepares the students for their future careers as healthcare professionals. “They have more exposure to different types of medical conditions and potential healthcare concerns, which will be valuable for the future. A lot of them talk and get to know each other. Relationships get built. Dental professionals send patients to our clinic and vice versa.”

Glendale optometry students also checked the visual health of incoming dental students.

Optometry student Phillip Kaltenthaler (CCO ’26) said, “It was my first real experience talking to patients. Optometry and dentistry were working together to help each other. I didn’t know what a loupe was all about before now.” Optometry student Grace Cory (CCO ’26) also appreciated the value of interprofessional conversations. “It is really helpful for us being exposed to that kind of interaction early on,” she said. Optometry student Elizabeth Cowden (CCO ’26) agreed. “I feel like the interdisciplinary aspect was significant. They were able to ask us questions, and we know they’re interested in our field too.” Optometry student Alec Verven (CCO ’26) enjoyed the experience and the chance to work on his optometry skills, and added it was also beneficial for the dental students who had not received an eye exam in some time to know the state of their vision health. Grace added, “They can be made aware of some condition they might have. We tell them if they do need to be seen by a doctor.”

The students also learned to adapt to a new environment and performed eye exams in a room full of colleagues. They learned to adjust to this situation, which was beneficial for the students. Phillip said, “It was a different setting than we’ve been in. Usually, we know where everything is. We have never done an exam in a room full of people.” Grace added, “Normally, it’s just you and a patient.”

In addition, this experience reassured the students of their skills. Grace said she was nervous when she first began, but her confidence increased, and she was grateful for this experience to be working alongside her classmates. Alec shared, “It was fun. It was a good checkpoint to see where we were at. We know more than we think. It’s a win-win situation. It was a confidence-builder for us, and the dental students got a free exam.”

Optometry students and dental students in Glendale also participated in interdepartmental collaboration.

Dr. Mallios added, “We’re really grateful to help the dental students, and the dental program administrators feel the same way. We’ve done the screening the last few years and hope to continue to do it.”

Midwestern University encourages interprofessional education and activities for students to become well-rounded future healthcare professionals. Doctor of Dental Medicine programs are offered in Downers Grove and Glendale. Doctor of Optometry programs are also offered in Downers Grove and Glendale.