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The University of Pikeville is about to open the nation’s largest optometric college in terms of floor space, the Kentucky College of Optometry.

“Dr. Andrew Buzzelli, vice president for optometric education and the college’s founding dean, said that, at 130,000 square feet, KYCO is the largest optometry college in the country,” Josh Little reports for the Appalachian News-Express in Pikeville. “The cost to build the college is $55 million, plus $9 million for equipment.”

Artist's rendering of Kentucky College of Optometry, Pikeville (Photo Provided)

Students at the college will perform optometric services for local residents, under the supervision of doctors of optometry.

“Pikeville Medical Center will still continue to be the main provider in the area, but they only have two providers, so the care is in here,” Buzzelli said. “In the other schools around the country, care is all around the city, that’s not true here. … This will be for our specialty clinics, such as laser surgery.”

He said the college will offer electrophysiological tests, which now require residents to travel to Lexington or Huntington, W.Va.

The university is already home to the School of Osteopathic Medicine.

From Kentucky Health News

UPike’s Kentucky College of Optometry, the first such school in the state, set to recruit inaugural class

The University of Pikeville-Kentucky College of Optometry – the 22nd such school in the nation and the first in Kentucky – has entered a new phase and will begin recruiting its inaugural class for the fall of 2016.

The Accreditation Council on Optometric Education voted to grant the Kentucky College of Optometry the pre-accreditation classification of “Preliminary Approval.” The notification was received Nov. 13 in a letter from ACOE Chairman J. Bart Campbell.

“The classification of ‘Preliminary Approval’ is granted to a professional optometric degree program that has clearly demonstrated it is developing in accordance with council standards,” wrote Campbell. “The program has approval to begin student recruitment, selection and admissions, and to begin offering the program.”

An ACOE evaluation team visited the university Aug. 30-Sept. 1, 2015. As part of the process, the ACOE will review the preliminary approval classification annually during the first three academic years of the program, including progress reports and/or site visits. A request for final accreditation status will be made by the university not less than 12 months prior to graduation of the program’s first class.

 (UPike photo)


Sixty students will be admitted per class for a total of 240. With no other colleges of optometry in Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina or Georgia, KYCO will be the most accessible college of optometry in the Southeastern portion of the country.

“We are the first school to receive such recognition under the new, more stringent accreditation standards, and in a record time of one year and three months from the time we initiated our self-study,” said Founding Dean Andrew Buzzelli. “It is because of the profusely talented UPIKE employees that we will be working toward complying with all of the standards for final accreditation, which will be considered after graduation of our first class.”

In 2014, the university announced the Kentucky College of Optometry, the next step in transforming the culture and health care of the region through access and education. A continuation of the university’s strategic focus on health sciences, the college of osteopathic medicine, the school of nursing and the college of optometry will serve as an integrated health care model for rural medicine.

Central Appalachia is a region that has the highest incidences of severe vision loss from other factors such as diabetes and hypertension. Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on the U.S. counties with the highest prevalence of severe vision loss, the majority of which were located in the south. Overall, about three percent of people had severe vision loss. The highest rate amongst all American regions was Owsley County, located in the coalfields of Eastern Kentucky, at more than 18 percent.

“Our Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine has provided a successful blueprint and the experience to build a sustainable model for rural health care education,” said Paul Patton, the university’s chancellor and interim president. “National statistics demonstrate the need for quality, affordable vision care in rural areas. Our objective is to provide access and education to the people of the mountains and to address a critical health care need in our region and throughout the nation. We expect that the college of optometry will be nationally renowned as a premier college for teaching and research.”

“The Kentucky College of Optometry will welcome its inaugural class in 2016, pioneers in the birthplace of rural optometry who will have an opportunity to make a real and lasting impact,” continued Buzzelli. “As practitioners of the healing arts, the mission is to define the standard for excellence in optometric education and vision care. This inaugural class will be a part of our great undertaking, called by many a vision of hope.”

In the coming days, the college’s recruiting staff, under the direction of Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Roya Attar, will be putting a detailed recruiting plan forward to attract the “best and brightest to Central Appalachia,” Buzzelli said. “We are devoting significant effort to meeting our mission of offering a professional education to students from our region and other rural areas of America who will return to practice in those communities after graduation. The faculty is putting finishing touches on our curriculum for the competent practice of the future optometrist. The university is also working on complying with the ACOE’s recommendations for gaining full compliance with all standards in preparation for our request for final accreditation which will occur after we graduate our first class of optometrists in ‘20/20.’”

Similar to the college of osteopathic medicine, the optometry program will offer the KYCO Advantage, a program developed around the university’s mission of access and educational opportunity, providing all first-year students with the same resources – at no additional cost – including equipment, books, clinical clothing and national board examination fees.

Construction began last spring on the new $55 million Health Professions Education Building, a 103,000 square-foot facility that will house the college of optometry and provide technology and clinical training that will enhance the learning experience for the school of nursing and other health professions programs. The building will also have a food court featuring major brands Chick- fil-A, Einstein Bros Bagels and a campus convenience store.

“It is the goal of the University of Pikeville to make this new college the best and most prestigious college of optometry in America,” said Patton. “This college will be the center of the effort to reduce vision loss in this part of the nation. We are the leading agency seeking to solve this problem with diagnosis and research. We will create opportunities for learning, strengthen our knowledge-based economy and foster a new, healthier Appalachia.”

For more information, call 606-218-5517 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

From University of Pikeville


“Quit Now Kentucky is currently offering eight (8) weeks of free Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) to ALL callers who enroll in coaching between June 20, 2016 and August 15, 2016. This offer is coinciding with an increased amount of Public Service Announcements from the CDC's "TIPS From Former Smokers" public awareness campaign.

To enroll, Kentucky residents may call 1-800-Quit Now (1-800-784-8669). The quitline offers services in both English and Spanish from 7:00 A.M. – 1:00 A.M. EST Monday through Sunday.”

'Medical cannabis is about quality of life for patients, it’s not about having fun or having a party,' spokesman says

Eric Crawford could not stand to show support Friday at a rally for the legalization of medical marijuana, saying he is bound to a wheelchair because of a medical condition of his spine.

Crawford said he suffers from a spinal disease, an eye condition so bad that doctors predict he will become blind in three years and his kidneys do not function properly. Crawford has tried different medications prescribed to him by doctors, but he says that none of them work.

“The only thing that works is medical cannabis,” Crawford said.

Eric Crawford shares his story to supporters at the rally for legalization of medical marijuana in the Capitol Rotunda Friday. Photo:  Amber Booth/The State JournalHis story is one many in support of legalizing medical cannabis have rallied around.

Kentucky is one of many states that has not yet legalized the use of medical cannabis.

State Senator John Schickel (R—Union) hosted a hearing Friday morning before his Licensing and Occupations committee to discuss changing that.

Prior to the hearing, supporters gathered at 9 a.m. in the Capitol Rotunda to make their voices heard.

Among some of the supporters who rallied together Friday morning was Senator Perry Clark (D—Louisville), the Kentucky Nurses Association (KNA), Kentuckians for Medicinal Marijuana (KY4MM), Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA).

Supporters said they want Kentucky to move forward with medical cannabis legalization like many other states already have done. They said they are tired of waiting and watching people suffer with no other alternative to deal with their sickness and pain that they may be dealing with. They want their side to be heard.

Executive Director of KY4MM Jaime Montalvo spoke at the rally on Friday explaining their position on the legalization of medical marijuana.

“Medical cannabis is about quality of life for patients. It’s not about having fun or having a party,” Montalvo said.

As he held a bag of prescription pill bottles in his arms he explained that if Kentucky were to legalize medical cannabis then people would not have to be on multiple prescription pills a day.

“There have been studies that have shown the use of cannabis reduce in pharmaceutical use, and beyond the pharmaceutical use is has helped them reduce their opioid use. In states with medical cannabis they have reduced almost 25 percent of the overdoses across those states. So that’s what we are here for, we are here for the quality of life and not a party,” Montalvo added.

Clark also showed his support with a statement at the rally on Friday.

“We know the time has come, we know our patients are in need, and we know the time is now,” Clark said.

Executive Director of KNA Maureen Keenan was also in attendance to show the support of the KNA.

“The KNA represents registered nurses of all variety across the state, and we are committed to the protection and the safety and healthy benefits for the patients across the state,” Keenan said. “For us the issue of medical cannabis is not a issue that is a social issue or a moral issue in the way that most think that it is. For us it is a moral issue because of refusing to recognize the benefits of the necessity of medical cannabis.”

Tim Simpson, a supporter at the rally, said he supports the effort of legalizing medical cannabis to give others alternate treatment options.

“I am tired of seeing people die of cancer because they cannot experiment with no other alternative,” said Simpson.

By Amber Booth
The State Journal

The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) is challenging communities and organizations to join Step It Up, Kentucky!. This statewide campaign aims to improve the health of all Kentuckians by building the demand for walkable communities, making walking a priority.

Public health recommends getting 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week to improve health, which can easily be achieved by walking. People are more likely to make the decision to walk when they have places, programs and policies that provide opportunities and encouragement.



“Getting people to move more starts with improving the places we live, learn, work and play,” said Elaine Russell, coordinator for the Obesity Prevention Program. “Communities can be built for people to be active in their everyday life. By providing safe, attractive and convenient places to walk, anybody can incorporate exercise into their daily routine.”

Recently, the U.S. Surgeon General launched Step It Up! A Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities, which calls on Americans to increase walking by designing communities that encourage physical activity in order to address rising rates of chronic disease. Step It Up, Kentucky! demonstrates a state-level commitment to the Surgeon General’s call to action.

Step It Up! has already received numerous endorsements from businesses, organizations, individuals and state leaders, including Gov. Matt Bevin, who issued an official proclamation in support of Step It Up!

There are many things communities can do to support Step It Up, Kentucky!, including participating in walking programs, working with local coalitions to create spaces and opportunities for walking, or just spreading the message that Kentucky communities need to be redesigned as thriving places for everybody to be active and healthy.

Individuals and organizations can join Step It Up, Kentucky! by pledging their support and taking any of the small steps to promote walking in their communities:

· Organization Endorsement of Step It Up, Kentucky! CLICK HERE

· Individual Pledge to Step It Up, Kentucky! CLICK HERE

Over the past few years, the DPH Obesity Prevention and Healthy Communities Programs have provided competitive funding opportunities for 27 local communities to develop pedestrian plans. Through the Walkable Communities Committee, DPH has worked with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to establish free statewide trainings and provide technical assistance on designing walkable communities.

“The collaboration between Kentucky’s Public Health Department and Transportation Cabinet is transforming communities across the state,” said Ian Thomas, state and local program manager for America Walks, a nonprofit national organization that promotes walking and works to build walkable communities. “Their Walkable Communities Committee and training programs are a national model, which we hope to see replicated in other states.”

The Surgeon General’s call to action reinforces the importance of this work and encourages more communities to contribute to a statewide walking movement.

“Creating a culture that supports healthy lifestyles starts with building support at the local level,” said Dr. Connie White, acting commissioner for DPH. “All Kentuckians deserve safe, inviting places to be active. Step It Up, Kentucky! is the first step on a long journey to better community health.”

From adding sidewalks to developing parks and recreation sites, there are a number of things communities can do to become more walkable. Winchester, for example, created a mile-long circular path in the middle of the Central Kentucky city by simply mowing a stretch of undeveloped land. Rockcastle County, meanwhile, paved a one-mile path along a roadway in Mt. Vernon that is now used by walkers, runners and bikers. The path also served as the site for an eight-week walking challenge in the community.

For more information on Step It Up!, visit the Partnership for a Fit Kentucky’s website. If you are interested in reading more about obesity prevention, increasing access to physical activity, or what other communities are doing to encourage wellness, visit the Partnership for a Fit Kentucky’s blog.

From Cabinet for Health and Human Services Communications