March 22, 2005 | While a college student, Kim Glaze said she knew she wanted to work in health care and work with patients but wasn’t sure about a career direction.
There were many options, but she eventually settled on what was then a new program at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), ophthalmic medical technology. Today she works as an ophthalmic medical technologist in the clinic at the Harvey and Bernice Jones Eye Institute at UAMS, and is part of an eye care team that sees patients five days a week.
“I like the autonomy I have in my job and the ability to help people,” Glaze said. “I’m in charge of the initial eye exam for the patient. I conduct the vision test, the eye pressure test and other diagnostic tests to get the patient ready for the ophthalmologist.”
She conducts other tests if necessary, such as imaging procedures like photography or ultrasound. She is also able to assist the ophthalmologist in surgery. Glaze noted that the importance of the eyes goes past vision.
“You know the old saying that eyes are the windows of the soul? Well, that is true. I think one of the neatest things about the work is that the eye can be an indicator of so many diseases or health problems,” Glaze said. “Diabetes, for example, often causes changes to the blood vessels in the eyes, but also high blood pressure and even some forms of cancer can be detected because of changes in the eyes.”
The ophthalmic medical technology program at UAMS will host a pair of open houses on Friday, March 25, and Friday, April 29, to introduce prospective students to the program. The open houses, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. in the Bowen Auditorium (Room J211) at the Jones Eye Institute on the UAMS campus, will feature information about the program and allow the opportunity to visit with students and faculty.
To be accepted into the two-year ophthalmic medical technology program at UAMS, a student must have completed two years of general education requirements at a college or university. Upon completion of the professional curriculum, OMT students will be awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in ophthalmic medical technology. Graduates are eligible to take the national certification examination for Certified Ophthalmic Medical Technologists (COMTs), the highest certification level in the profession.
The UAMS program is a joint effort between the College of Health Related Professions and the Jones Eye Institute, providing an intensive combination of lecture, laboratory and clinical experiences. Students will receive hands-on training during clinical rotations at the Jones Eye Institute, and UAMS clinical and teaching affiliates Arkansas Children’s Hospital and the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System.
“There are few OMT programs in the country and we are able to offer an in-depth, comprehensive program with varied clinic experiences in a university setting,” said Christopher T. Westfall, M.D., chairman of the Department of Ophthalmic Technologies in the College of Health Related Professions. “Ophthalmic medical technologists offer special expertise in caring for patients with eye diseases and are important members of the eye care team.”
UAMS offers Arkansas’ only OMT program. Westfall said that previously the only way in state to become an ophthalmic medical technologist was through on-the-job training in the ophthalmologist’s office.
Job opportunities are expected to grow for OMTs in the coming years as the population ages and health care needs rise. Suzanne Hansen, an instructor and program director for the Department of Ophthalmic Technologies, said the profession is also in high demand as more ophthalmologists and eye clinics find the value of having OMTs on staff.
“An ophthalmic medical technologist can help an ophthalmologist see more patients and provide better care by conducting the diagnostic tests on patients and giving the necessary information to the ophthalmologist to make treatment decisions,” Hansen said.
There are then many career opportunities for OMTs in private clinics, group practices and academic departments of ophthalmology.
“Ophthalmic medical technology is a field that will best suit an individual who is interested in a career in an allied health profession that is patient oriented, in an office setting and has an emphasis on technology,” Westfall said.
Glaze was a member of the program’s first graduating class. In addition to working in the JEI clinic, she also works as the clinic coordinator and teaches current students.
“It’s a career I would definitely recommend,” Glaze said.
Links on This Page
Department of Ophthalmic Technologies: http://www.uams.edu/chrp/omt/default.asp
UAMS College of Health Related Professions: http://www.uams.edu/chrp/
Harvey and Bernice Jones Eye Institute: http://www.uams.edu/jei/
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