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International partnerships mark strategic growth for Ketchum University


After an exciting few years of transforming itself into an interprofessional university and expanding to include three academic programs, Marshall B. Ketchum University has set its sights farther afield — across the Pacific Ocean to Japan and South Korea.

In collaboration with universities in these countries, Ketchum created two new programs for students in Asia: an advanced executive certificate program in optometry, which began in April and is based at Tokyo Optometric College (TOC) in Japan, and a joint Master of Science in Clinical Optometry at Eulji University in South Korea that is projected to start next year.

This exciting international expansion is a product of strong relationships between Ketchum and the two schools, as well as years of hard work and planning by Ketchum faculty members and SCCO alumni living abroad. The partnership will help students in Japan and South Korea increase their clinical knowledge and skills to become better practitioners. This is a great opportunity for practicing opticians to learn directly from practitioners in the U.S., where the quality of optometric education is unparalleled and held in high esteem.

Ketchum Overseas

The master’s program in South Korea has a tentative start date of March 2017, with a class size of 15. Eulji University is currently focusing on marketing the program in South Korea to recruit a pool of qualified applicants, targeting recent graduates or practicing opticians who already have a bachelor’s degree in optometry. In Korea, optometrists are permitted to practice with a bachelor’s degree, so a master’s degree is optional. The two-year program will include six weeks of hands-on clinical training at MBKU’s Fullerton campus, offering Korean students a unique opportunity to learn abroad.

At TOC, students in the three-year certificate program take a total of 16 classes online, which benefits those unable to travel to further their education, and meet twice per semester for lab sessions on campus at TOC. The program’s 32 students range from age 23 to 66, many of whom are already working as practicing optometrists or at optical companies, such as manufacturers of glasses, and are receiving funding from their companies to complete the part-time program.

The material is delivered through video-recorded lectures in English with Japanese subtitles, translated by SCCO alumnus and TOC principal Dr. Mitsu Hayashi ’89 and other TOC educators. Dr. Hayashi worked with Ketchum University to develop the framework for the advanced education program and determine what courses were needed, but the lecture content was prepared solely by Marshall B. Ketchum University’s faculty and staff.

“Translating the videos led us to relearn all the material again since having graduated 20-something years ago, and we could check what is being taught,” he says.

Both of these programs represent a new approach to education in their respective countries, and graduates will receive either a certificate or a joint degree from the host school and Marshall B. Ketchum University. An optometry degree from an American university is coveted, as American optometric education is of the highest caliber, and these programs will enable students to earn such a degree without having to move overseas.

At the same time, the programs have the chance to elevate the status of optometry in Japan and South Korea. Though improving, the current perception of optometry in these countries is significantly different from how the profession is viewed in the U.S. Optometrists in both of these countries are not treated with the level of professional respect awarded to doctors and are not trained to or legally allowed to perform the procedures that American optometrists do because government regulations restrict the scope of practice; optometrists can do refraction, but no procedures or health checks, and can make lenses and glasses but not much more. Educators at all three institutions hope that the international classes, which will teach students about ocular health and how to diagnose diseases, will lead the expansion of the scope of practice and provide a path to better care for patients worldwide.

“The more eye care providers that take these classes, the more awareness exists with legislation and the public, who may say, ‘I didn’t know optometrists were trained to do these procedures,’ and hopefully the public and legislators will recognize and change the law,” says Dr. John Nishimoto, ’87, MBKU’s senior associate dean of professional affairs.

SCCO Alumni Support

While there are no SCCO alumni who teach at Eulji University, TOC has had SCCO alumni involved in its school as faculty members for decades. Dr. Hayashi, the Principal of TOC and the person responsible for spearheading the certificate program, says his education at SCCO allowed him to become a teacher and principal at TOC. Now, he is using his education to promote the profession of optometry in his home country, where he gives seminars on optometry to improve its perception.

The professional relationship began in 1986, when SCCO alumnus Dr. Setsuya Tsuda, ’75, led a group of students from TOC (then under the name of the Waseda College of Ophthalmic Optics) on a trip to his alma mater as part of a long-standing program to visit American optometric schools and facilities. When Dr. Hayashi returned to Japan and started teaching at TOC, he, too, took groups of students on the same trip several times. The strong ties formed by SCCO alumni and TOC, combined with much preparation at both schools, have culminated in the creation of this international program. Now that the certificate program is up and running, TOC hopes eventually to create a four-year bachelor’s degree program with MBKU’s help, ensuring the partnership will endure for years to come.

For its part, Ketchum will bring its excellent reputation to the schools and will receive valuable opportunities for faculty exchange, research, knowledge, cultural exposure and diversity. SCCO has always been a leader in optometric education in the U.S. and is now moving toward being recognized globally. “Any time you start to have an international component to a program, whether large or small, it adds prestige because of the way the world is now with globalization,” says Dr. Nishimoto. “Even though students here are not involved, they are intrigued. For many students of Asian descent, it ties them back to their roots.”