College of optometry Utah deanPROVO, Utah, Oct. 12, 2020 – Addressing the shortage of optometry colleges in the Western United States, Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions (RMUoHP) announced an intent to develop a new College of Optometry with Adam Hickenbotham, OD, MPH, PhD, selected as the Founding Dean.

As Dean, Hickenbotham will oversee the development of the curriculum, the hiring of faculty and staff, and guide the new college through the accreditation process in preparation for an anticipated opening in 2023. The College of Optometry is seeking accreditation through the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education, requiring a multistage process before a new school can begin to recruit or enroll students. 

“We are pleased Dr. Hickenbotham, one of the leading experts and groundbreakers in optometry, will lead our efforts in starting our College of Optometry,” said Richard P. Nielsen, PT, DHSc, ECS, founding President and CEO of Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions. “The College of Optometry will offer the traditional training that optometrists have received in the past, but will also be designed to prepare physician-level providers of optometry.”

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for optometrists will grow an estimated 30 percent during the next ten years.

“Due to an aging US population, we must prepare for a potential shortage of optometric physicians during the next few decades,” said Hickenbotham. “The Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions’ College of Optometry will help alleviate this impending shortage by preparing, teaching, and graduating new optometrists to meet the demand for primary eye care in the fastest-growing region of the country which is currently without an optometrIc training institution.”

About Dr. Hickenbotham

Hickenbotham has more than 17 years of clinical experience, including the management of multiple surgery centers and private practice clinics. He has owned a private clinic and has worked in both small and large practices for many years. He remains at the forefront of the most recent ophthalmic treatments through ongoing continued education. He is ranked among the top one percent of all optometrists in the country, having performed ocular surgeries such as trabeculoplasties, iridotomies, capsulotomies, etc. Of the more than 42,000 optometrists in the U.S., less than 100 are currently licensed to perform these ocular surgeries. 

Besides his clinical work, Hickenbotham has more than 20 years of background in academic settings, research, administration, and other roles. He is also the inventor of numerous patents on laser surgical technology in the US, Europe, China, Japan, South Korea, and other countries. Thru-Focus Optics LLC, a surgical research company he founded, recently completed a first-in-human clinical trial on new laser treatment for presbyopia, which is the loss of near vision that occurs with age.

Hickenbotham was a founding faculty member at the University of Pikeville, College of Optometry, filling several leadership roles, including Chair of the Rank and Promotions Committee, Vice-Chair of the Academic Standards Committee, Secretary of the Admissions Committee, and Chair of the Scholarships and Award Committee. 

Hickenbotham has extensive experience in developing a college of optometry. He played a crucial role in creating a new college of optometry in Tennessee where he was the Director of Research for the College of Health Sciences and the Assistant Dean for Research for the College of Optometry. He was also the Faculty Chair for the Health Sciences Executive Council and the Chair of the Academic Rank and Promotions Committee. Later he became the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs as the College submitted the Self Study documentation for accreditation. 

Hickenbotham has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Brigham Young University, a Doctorate in Optometry (OD) from the University of California, Berkeley, a master’s degree in Public Health, and a Doctorate (PhD) in Bioengineering in a joint program between the University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, San Francisco, a Clinical Research Conduct and Management one-year certificate from University of California, Berkeley, and he has completed Post-Graduate Medical Education training at Harvard Medical School’s Surgical Leadership program.

Mark J. Horacek, PT, MS, PhD, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost for RMUoHP, said, “I look forward to working with Dr. Hickenbotham and his academic team to offer an excellent education based on an advanced and medically-based curriculum that creates caring and compassionate practitioners who offer practical and advanced vision care.”

About the Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions College of Optometry

The new College of Optometry at RMUoHP will help meet the growing demand for qualified optometrists. According to The Conference Board, an independent, non-partisan, and non-profit provider of insights into future business issues, optometry is one of the medical profession’s highest areas of risk for the labor shortage. The labor shortage with other industry concerns, including issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, positions the College of Optometry to meet optometry patients’ needs throughout the US and beyond. 

RMUoHP projects an initial class size of 64 students for the first class with an anticipated start date in 2023. The total projected enrollment for four concurrent classes of students is anticipated at approximately 250 students.

The RMUoHP College of Optometry will collaborate with local optometrists for its clinical program and has received a warm welcome from the Utah Optometric Association.

“The Utah Optometric Association has presented [RMUoHP’s] proposal of a new College of Optometry to be developed in the Provo area to its membership,” said Court R. Wilkins, OD, FAAO, MHS, president of the Utah Optometric Association, in a letter. “There has been nothing but positive comments made. They … see the future of the state with a new school as support for further development and progression of optometry …. [The proposal] was viewed as giving optometrists a broader view and more opportunities to teach and develop skills. They also saw it as an opportunity for the College of Optometry to support further legislation in the State of Utah.” 

Fully accredited through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, and by the US Department of Education, RMUoHP is uniquely poised to begin a College of Optometry.

The College falls well within the University’s mission to educate current and future healthcare professionals for outcomes-oriented, evidence-based practice. The University demonstrates mission fulfillment through the quality of its students’ education and success in academic programs to develop leaders skilled in clinical inquiry and prepared to affect healthcare change.

Falling in line with its tradition of providing free treatments to under-served and non-insured residents of Utah County through the Communication Rehabilitation Clinic (physical therapy) and the Center for Communication Disorders (speech-language-pathology), the RMUoHP College of Optometry will also develop its own optometry clinic and will likewise offer pro-bono services to the local under-served population. Local optometrists will serve as faculty and part-time clinicians in the clinic where they will have the opportunity to teach and mentor optometry students. 

The College of Optometry will reside on the campus of RMUoHP in Provo.

About Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions

Founded in 1998 and located in Provo, Utah, Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions (RMUoHP) is an accredited institution by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, an institutional accrediting commission recognized by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. RMUoHP offers high-quality, evidence-based, and outcomes-oriented graduate healthcare programs.  www.rm.edu