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New Nova Southeastern Dean Plans to Prep Students for Now and the Future

Dr. Coulter

Rachel A. “Stacey” Coulter, OD, MS, FAAO, FCOVD, has been busy since October. She started her new role as associate dean of clinical affairs at Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry less than two months ago, but she’s already jumped in to ensuring Nova students are not only prepared for exams but for what their career “could be.”

“Today’s optometrists need to be prepared to stay current, analyze data, understand trends and make sound decisions more than ever,” Dr. Coulter says. She hopes to give her students the courage and foundation to do just that.

ALWAYS EVOLVING

Dr. Coulter has already been working with the directors and administrators at the college to implement a revised curriculum “to provide early clinic exposure in primary care, glaucoma and retinal disease management, as well as in specialty areas including myopia control, dry eye, pediatric optometry and sports vision.” She says students must be prepared for the many challenges now facing optometric practice including “managing student loans/indebtedness, declining insurance reimbursements, increasing technology costs, an evolving scope of care, the impact of artificial intelligence on eye care and the influx of private equity on practice structure.”

Dr. Coulter has been working consistently with the school to “seek feedback and refine our program to meet the needs of our students.” This includes “collaborating with externship sites and residency programs and focusing on clinic curricula, quality assurance, accreditation data and faculty development,” she says. And with the new NBEO Part III exam launching in 2024, one of her short-term goals is to prepare students for the new format. “This new format emphasizes students’ ability to  apply evidence-based knowledge to diagnose and manage patients,” Dr. Coulter says.

FINDING YOUR NICHE

While the academic aspect is “obviously” important, she says, “I also want my students to find joy in the practice of optometry and the feeling that they make a difference.” She encourages students to explore the full realm of optometry to “determine one’s interest, goals and career path. I want to expose students to a vision of what their career could be.”

“The optometry clinic at NSU presents a very diverse patient population which includes many immigrants and folks who have had limited access to eye care,” she says. “Often, we are the first to diagnose eye conditions and disease. In the past two years, I have had patients from Ukraine, Bulgaria, Germany, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Haiti, Jamaica, South Africa and Korea. It keeps our doctors and students on their toes.”

Dr. Coulter is motivated to help students achieve their goals. “I have witnessed a diverse array of students succeed, including first-generation college students, single parents, second-career students and recent immigrants,” she says. Many of these students may return to their diverse communities after graduating, providing access and quality eye care where it hasn’t been delivered as fully before. “It has been exciting to see the transformative power of optometric education on many peoples’ lives.”

And that should keep her students motivated, too, she says. “NSU has alumni who practice a range of locations: small rural towns in the western and southern U.S., as well as in the Caribbean, on military bases and within industry. Of course, our alumni make up a significant portion of Florida’s optometric work force. It is important to remember that optometry still delivers more than two-thirds of primary eye health care in the U.S. Optometrists provide access and high-quality care. Patients need us.”

 

Dr. Coulter’s tips for new grads:

  • Understand what motivates you and what is unique about you as an optometrist. This can help you determine the patient populations you want to serve, the type of practice that is a good fit for you and the opportunities you should (or should not) seek.
  • You may not be in your dream practice in your first position. But if you’re moving in the right direction, it’s a win.
  • Manage your finances and live within a budget. This will not only help you reach your immediate financial goals but will help you have choices and options throughout your career.

 

To read more leadership stories from WO, click here.

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