Dr. Ghazi-Birry, founding dean and professor at the UIW School of Optometry, shares plans for the school’s future.

UIW School of Optometry Founding Dean and Professor H. Simon Ghazi-Birry, MD, OD, Ph.D. OCS, shared progress for the university’s School of Optometry at a community gathering at the Datapoint location on Aug. 25. Visitors had the opportunity to view the progress of the new facilities including classrooms and labs and to see plans for the second phase of construction to begin in January.

This semester marked the first for UIW optometry students to begin their studies. The inaugural class, made up of 62 students, entered with an average GPA of 3.31.

Though the national average for Hispanic students in optometry schools in the contiguous United States is less than 3 percent, 12 percent of students at UIW’s optometry school are Hispanic. In March, the School of Optometry received pre-accreditation approval to begin its doctoral program.

“The faculty, staff and administration of UIWSO are proud to announce the startup of the UIW School of Optometry and to welcome our inaugural class,” Ghazi-Birry said.

UIW’s School of Optometry was also included in the FY2010 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Appropriations bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in July. The federal funding will be used to purchase equipment and technology for the School of Optometry and a planned East Side eye care clinic, which will provide quality eye exams and vision services to underserved residents in East San Antonio.

“We are honored to receive this award and grateful to Congressman Lamar Smith for his vision and help in this public health care project. The Eastside Clinical facility is, in my opinion, what constitutes the jewel of our clinical program. We are able to serve a significant population of the underserved,” Ghazi-Birry said.

At least 50 fulltime, permanent jobs are expected to be created at the eye care clinic with the assistance of this federal funding.