Forty-five years ago this month, on April 14, 1971, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller signed the bill that officially establish the State University of New York College of Optometry. Forty-five years ago this coming September, the College opened its doors to 23 first-year OD students and five graduate students.
Every great institution honors its history and we are no different. The College was created four-and-a-half decades ago, in part, to fill a serious need for vision care in New York City and its surrounding region. The last school of optometry in New York State—at Columbia University—had closed in 1956 eventually leading to a predictable and serious drop in the number of practicing eye care providers in and around the city. In fact, according to a contemporary report in the New York Times
, by October 1969 then-New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary C. McLaughlin claimed that there was a “desperate need” for vision care professionals in the city and called upon the New York State Legislature to establish a college of optometry to fill that need. The commissioner’s plea reinforced what the Optometric Center of New York—now SUNY Optometry’s affiliated foundation and, as you will see in the story about the gala, celebrating its 60th year in 2016—had been saying for years.
The SUNY College of Optometry was established to fill this serious need for care and we have done that. Today, we can proudly say that we have produced more than 60 percent of the practicing optometrists in New York State. But we do so much more than that. We provide care to tens of thousands of people at the University Eye Center and at affiliated locations in New York City and beyond. We are directly engaged in game-changing basic, translational and clinical research that is helping to shape the future of health care. Our work helps to lead optometry forward, not only here in New York and in the United States but around the globe.
We’re proud of our history and the role that we have played in helping to improve the health of New Yorkers. Our history has helped make us who we are today and what we will be in the years to come.
David A. Heath, OD, EdM
P.S.The College recently held a tabletop exercise to stimulate discussion surrounding our current level of preparedness for responding to campus emergencies.