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ECC celebrates new ophthalmic program

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Dr. Thomas Robertson Jr., ECC instructor Andrea Jenkins and Dr. Kevin Payne, from left, attend a recent reception to celebrate the College’s new Ophthalmic Medical Assistant program at ECC.

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From Contributed Reports

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Edgecombe Community College trustees, administrators, instructors, students and clinicians recently celebrated the college’s new Ophthalmic Medical Assistant program and the addition of high-tech equipment.

The four-semester diploma program curriculum was developed with input from local clinicians who recognized the need for trained individuals in the industry.

Several of these clinicians attended a reception for the program held Dec. 3, including Dr. Thomas Robertson Jr. of Rocky Mount Eye, Dr. Kevin Payne of Wilson Eye Associates, and Anna Crichlow, office manager of Mid Atlantic Eye Physicians.

The Ophthalmic Medical Assistant program is offered in the evening, making it the first evening program in health sciences at ECC. It prepares students to perform ophthalmic procedures under the supervision of a licensed physician specializing in ophthalmology.

“Local ophthalmologists and optometrists have expressed an interest in the college starting this program for several years,” said Kim Byron-Barnes, chair of the Ophthalmic Medical Assistant program. “Certified employees are not available in this area, and eye care workers have had to take a home study course while they receive on-the-job training.”

Students attending the reception explained their interest in the program. Teresa Morris has been working in the eye care field for 19 years.

“It’s time I got certified,” she said.

Initially, she worked with an ophthalmologist, and now she is employed at Tarboro Eye Associates.

“When I receive my degree and complete certification, I will be qualified to assist an ophthalmologist in the operating room. Ultimately, this program is furthering my education and interest in eye care,” she said.

Sa’Quin Winstead, who completed ECC’s Medical Assisting program in May 2018, said the Ophthalmic Medical Assistant program is building on his skills in medical assisting and will provide career advancement. Ultimately, he plans to pursue a four-year degree in health sciences.

The equipment in the Ophthalmic Medical Assistant lab is a “mirror image of a doctor’s office,” said Andrea Jenkins, adjunct instructor. Students learn using digital eyes and digital eye charts, and the advanced equipment also is capable of patient simulations, such as cataracts and glaucoma.

Students will begin training in a clinical setting next semester. The current clinical partner is Rocky Mount Eye, but practices in Greenville, Roanoke Rapids, Tarboro and Wilson have expressed an interest in becoming a clinical site.

Only three North Carolina community colleges offer the Ophthalmic Medical Assistant program. The closest one to Edgecombe County is at Sandhills Community College in Pinehurst.

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