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Pennsylvania College of Optometry Becomes a University

PCO Expands Focus to Respond to Emerging Health Care Demands

Elkins Park, PA Over the past nine decades, the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) has undergone a series of transformations - changing campuses, strengthening curriculums and developing new programs. The College now has completed a process to significantly enhance its institutional structure. On July 1, 2008, PCO will officially make the transition from a college to a university.

Since 1919, the Pennsylvania College of Optometry has created a legacy of excellence in optometry. Over the past 25 years, the College has broadened its focus to include other disciplines and currently offers a total of seven graduate and two professional degrees. In addition to the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, PCO today is comprised of the PCO School of Audiology, four programs in Graduate Studies in Vision Impairment and a Physician Assistant program, each reflecting the values and the commitment to excellence upon which PCO was founded. Through its Center for International Studies, the College brings students and practicing optometrists to Philadelphia through its optometric programs in 17 countries around the world. A dynamic learning community and a multi-purpose institution, the College now will be better served by the internal structure of a university.

An institution's name reflects its identity and conveys its past while charting its future course. With its new status, the institution will adopt the name Salus University. Salus, a Latin word for health and well-being, was unanimously adopted by the Board of Trustees as an expression of the institution's dedication to the preservation of the health and well-being of the communities its graduates serve.

"The university's name supports the institution's vision of an academic community that emphasizes a holistic approach to education, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation, and includes a commitment to interdisciplinary learning," according to Salus University President Thomas L. Lewis, O.D., Ph.D. "Our faculty, students, staff and Board of Trustees realize that, as this institution grows and becomes more complex, the name Salus will offer direction, underscoring the value of inter-disciplinary education and early clinical experience that are the hallmarks of our innovative curriculum."

The mission of the institution remains the same as it has been since 1919: to educate health care professionals and educators, conduct research and provide patient care and rehabilitative services that advance the welfare of the public worldwide. Salus University provides students with uncommon opportunities to gain clinical experience and real-world understanding in their fields, and ensures that its students understand cutting-edge technology in order to perform effectively in their chosen professions.

While the mission of the institution and its commitment to excellence in education has not changed, the expansion of its programs is the result of careful planning and an examination of the health, scientific and political changes in society. As the need for more - and more highly specialized - health professionals continues to increase, Salus University will continue to respond to the demand with relevant programs.

Salus University is located in Elkins Park, PA. For more information about the University, please visit

History of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry

The Pennsylvania College of Optometry was established in Philadelphia in 1919 and the history of the College is the history of modern optometry. PCO was the nation's first nonprofit, independent college of optometry and has continued to be a leader in the fields of education, research and new approaches to the management of vision problems. The College has spearheaded innovations in many areas. In 1975, PCO was the first college of optometry to develop a comprehensive, off-campus externship program. In 1978, PCO opened The Eye Institute, making it the first optometry college to develop a comprehensive interdisciplinary clinical facility for education and patient care. In 1998, PCO moved its campus to Elkins Park, at the intersection of Routes 73 and 611. As an innovator in the field of optometry, PCO has always been committed to going beyond standard procedures and advancing the profession through continuing education courses and innovative curricula.

In addition to the Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) program, PCO offers programs in Graduate Studies that include Low Vision Rehabilitation, Orientation and Mobility, Vision Rehabilitation Teaching and Education of Children and Youth with Visual and Multiple Impairments. The College's Center for International Studies offers a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degree to international optometry students and practitioners, as well as outstanding special educational programs and initiatives in 17 countries.

Setting a New Standard

Just as PCO set the standard for the practice of optometry, the College has led the way in establishing the Doctor of Audiology degree as the entry level degree for the profession. The College created AuDonline, a Doctor of Audiology distance education program designed specifically for licensed, practicing audiologists. The establishment of the residential four-year Doctor of Audiology program in 2003 at the PCO School of Audiology emphasized a groundbreaking biomedical curriculum with early experiential learning. The College provides students with a solid scientific understanding of hearing while developing the students' clinical skills for professional practice at the state of the art Pennsylvania Ear Institute, located on the Elkins Park campus. The School of Audiology program represents a new model for the professional education of audiologists, with graduates who are positioned to take advantage of audiology's expanding scope of practice and are uniquely qualified to become private practitioners.

Responding to Demand

The introduction of a Physician Assistant Program in August 2007 began a new era for the institution. Graduates of this program receive a Master of Medical Science degree, and the focus of the program is on evidence-based medicine and clinical problem solving. Physician Assistant students at PCO gain valuable cross-disciplinary experience through classes with Optometry and Audiology students and faculty.

The proud legacy of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry now becomes the cornerstone of Salus University. The institution's commitment to excellence and innovation, coupled with a tradition of public service and responsible stewardship will continue to flourish.
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