Seeing is Learning

Paula Kutzner OD, MEd/VFL ‘18 worked with a Forest Grove elementary school to develop new in-school vision screenings to improve learning opportunities for children. Her efforts will continue as the screenings become part of ongoing outreach to local schools through Pacific. Kutzner is pursuing simultaneous doctor of optometry and master of education degrees from Pacific.

Vision therapy can make a world of difference for children who struggle academically because of common eye disorders.

Yet not all youth who stand to benefit from the treatment have access to clinic-based services. That is why Paula Kutzner OD ’18, MEd/VFL ’18 developed a school-based, vision therapy program for her thesis in Pacific University’s Master of Education/Visual Function in Learning program.

Kutzner and her team provided on-site eye exams to students at a Forest Grove elementary school with the Pacific EyeVan.

“I was hoping that people who might not be able to access those services at our clinic would then be able to access them at their elementary school,” Kutzner said.

Ten candidates for vision therapy then were enrolled in a 12-week after-school program administered by students and faculty from Pacific’s College of Optometry. After the 12-week period, students were re-evaluated both in terms of their vision care and also in their academic performance.

The program proved both popular and effective — so much so, that it will continue through the College of Optometry’s outreach program even after Kutzner has graduated from Pacific.

“We’ve decided to continue the program next year,” Kutzner said. “The fact that this partnership’s going to be sustainable is very exciting.”

The MED/VFL program is a unique partnership between Pacific University’s College of Optometry and College of Education. Doctoral optometry students who are interested in focusing on pediatric populations or studying the relationship between vision and learning can earn a master’s of education degree during their optometry course of study.

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