Professor Harrison S. Weisinger, has been appointed as Foundation Head of Deakin’s new Optometry Department in Geelong.
Prof. Weisinger has moved to Deakin University from Specsavers where he held the position as the director of professional services for three years.
The new Optometry department, which will be located over one entire floor of Deakin’s planned REACH building, will take in its first cohort of students in 2012. The AUD$47 million REACH building will be purpose designed and built for contemporary health education.
Prof. Weisinger says the course that is currently under development will be unique in Australia. “Ours will be an accelerated optometry program that enables students to complete a five year double degree in three and a half years. We’ll do this by working within Deakin’s trimester system or our Medical School’s system of two 20 week semesters.”
Ours will be an accelerated optometry program that enables students to complete a five year double degree in three and a half years
Students will commence the optometry program with an induction program aimed at introducing them to a variety of professionals from the industry. Representatives from private and public practice, the Optometry Association, not for profits, government and media will be invited to present their perspective on optometry.
“It’s a big undertaking to commit yourself to degrees and the profession without a real understanding of the industry. This will give the students an overview of the industry,” said Prof. Weisinger.
While the foundation year will provide students with a “mixed bag” of health topics derived from Deakin’s existing health and science units as well as new optics units, the following two years will focus on problem based learning.
Prof. Weisinger explained that problem based learning enables students to learn by working on clinical problems using their experiences and knowledge, and under the guidance of a tutor. “In this way, they constantly build on their knowledge base,” he said.
Prof. Weisinger said students will work on scientific, management, ethical, and commercial problems. They will also undertake weekly studies in “clinical critical skills workshops” during which they will learn about the components of optometry. “The students need to understand the variety of issues that extend outside the consulting room,” he said.
The final six months of the course will be spent in the workforce, primarily in regional and rural areas of Australia. “We’ll rotate them through country, private and commercial practices and support them with Deakin’s distance education program,” he said. “By the time they graduate they will be work ready.”
Prof. Weisinger was keen to point out that his history with Specsavers will in no way influence the course or the work experience students undertake. “I am speaking with many prospective clinical partners. I have engaged Specsavers but we’ve taken no money nor have they committed to taking money. I have also spoken to Luxottica, the Optometry Association, ProVision and community based clinics,” he said.
On a personal level, Prof. Weisinger said he’s thrilled to have returned to the academic world – prior to working with Specsavers, he was a hospital doctor and a post doctoral fellow before that. “It’s a massive change (from commercial enterprise). Things move a lot faster in the corporate world. They get signed off with much less red tape. But Government structures are very robust. Many eyes run over every proposal. It’s comforting to know that Deakin wont end up with a ‘Harry’s Optometry Degree.'”
“I’m so happy; I’m now at a great place in my life. Geelong is a lovely part of the world and I’m working with a great team. Deakin has a lot to offer students, the community, industry and the whole of Australia.”