SCCO Doctor of Optometry Program Overview


To inspire and educate future optometrists to provide collaborative, evidence-based, ethical, and equitable health care that reflects the evolving practice of optometry, and to be leaders in the community and profession.


As the first optometry school in California, the Southern California College of Optometry (SCCO) has a proud history of serving the optometric profession and the public. The college educates and guides future doctors of optometry to be leaders in healthcare, advances the profession, and serves our communities, locally, nationally, and internationally. We embody the values of the university in our commitment to reimagine the future of healthcare education, while promoting accountability through professionalism, ethical standards, and societal responsibility. We embrace an inclusive and compassionate culture for all members. We practice excellence in the care we give to patients and the high-quality, evidence-based education we impart to students. Innovation is championed by the contributions we make to the profession. Above all, we respect and value the skills and diversity of people and their contributions to our college.


Education Teaching Scholarship Service Community
Graduate licensed optometrists Dedicated - faculty and staff are dedicated to teaching Active Research Care for community Inclusive
High quality, evidence based, broad optometric education Evolving - instruction evolves to adapt to the profession and student needs Faculty Publication Contribute to optometric profession Respectful
Positive learning experience for students Contemporary - teaching style is contemporary and up-to-date Research Infrastructure Create future leaders Diverse
Development of professional identity and ethical compass Service to alumni

SCCO Organizational Chart

SCCO Org Chart

Program Learning Outcomes

Program Learning Outcome 1

Graduates will demonstrate competency as a primary eye care provider by:

PLO Description
PLO 1.1 Identifying and applying principles of biomedical, optical, vision, and clinical sciences with an emphasis on the eye and visual system to diagnose disorders of the eye, visual system, visual function, and systemic health.
PLO 1.2 Gathering pertinent health information about a patient through skillful, culturally sensitive, communication, and observation.
PLO 1.3 Accurately obtaining and interpreting the results of diagnostic testing by understanding the scientific and statistical principles of testing.
PLO 1.4 Understanding the associations between ocular and systemic conditions and disease states to formulate effective, patient-centered, management and treatment plans through the appropriate use of ophthalmic materials, pharmaceuticals, and/or select surgical and non-surgical procedures.
PLO 1.5 Demonstrating an understanding of healthcare systems and designing evidence-based interventions, and educational strategies for individuals and communities to manage ocular and systemic disease and improve health outcomes.
PLO 1.6 Working in cooperation with those who receive care, those who provide care, and others who contribute to or support the delivery of health care.

Program Learning Outcome 2

Graduates will demonstrate critical thinking and problem-solving skills by:

PLO Description
PLO 2.1 Identifying, evaluating, and developing solutions to problems.
PLO 2.2 Integrating current knowledge, scientific advances, and the understanding of the human/social dimensions (i.e., compassion, ethics, cultural sensitivity, and patient centric) to assure the highest quality of health care for each patient.
PLO 2.3 Acquiring, analyzing, and applying new information.
PLO 2.4 Recognizing and applying relevant public health principles in the development of treatment and management plans.

Program Learning Outcome 3

Graduates will practice evidence-based healthcare by:

PLO Description
PLO 3.1 Integrating current knowledge, scientific advances, and human/social dimensions (i.e., compassion, ethics, cultural sensitivity, and patient centric) to deliver competent patient care.
PLO 3.2 Pursuing and appraising current literature, identifying study limitations, and understanding relevance to clinical scenarios.
PLO 3.3 Interpreting statistical tests and hypothesis analyses.
PLO 3.4 Applying evidence-based knowledge to incorporate new technologies and procedures in clinical evaluation, problem solving, and decision making.

Program Learning Outcome 4

Graduates will demonstrate a commitment to professionalism and ethics through:

PLO Description
PLO 4.1 Developing personal and professional goals.
PLO 4.2 Practicing patient care in a professional, ethical, sustainable, and legal manner.
PLO 4.3 Pursuing cultural competence and humility skills to appropriately address the unique needs of diverse populations.
PLO 4.4 Respecting the dignity of each patient.
PLO 4.5 Supporting and participating in professional organizations within optometry.

Curriculum Overview and Course Sequence

See also: University Catalog

It takes four academic years to complete the Doctor of Optometry program. During the first year, students are exposed to the basic sciences and research techniques. Included are courses in geometrical and physical optics, biomedical sciences, visual sciences, and clinical techniques. First-year students also receive their first introduction to patient care at Ketchum Health, the University’s eye and health center.

The second year emphasizes clinical techniques and advanced studies in visual science. Students begin seeing their own patients at Ketchum Health in the second quarter of the second year.

Third-year students have patient care assignments at Ketchum Health under the supervision of clinical faculty and take courses in contact lenses, vision therapy, diseases of the eye, ocular pharmacology, clinical optometry, and public health.

The final year is primarily spent serving patients in the various facilities of the outreach clinical program.  Some assignment in the specialty services in the Ketchum Health Network is also included.

The mission of the Southern California College of Optometry’s outreach clinical programs is to deliver the highest quality patient care and service and to educate clinicians in the art and science of optometry in diverse patient care delivery environments.

The degree of Doctor of Optometry will be conferred on students who are officially admitted to, and who satisfactorily complete, the four-year professional curriculum in optometry. Satisfactory completion of the SCCO program will academically qualify the graduate to apply for licensure in each of the 50 states.

Elective Curriculum

Electives provide options to enhance student learning and allow for more individualized (self-directed) professional development. Some Programs may require completion of a certain number of elective courses to complete degree requirements. Elective courses have administrative requirements for development and delivery that include both minimum and maximum enrollment numbers and early registration dates. Generally, students apply to the course instructor for approval/admittance into an elective course. The University Registrar will enroll approved students in elective courses.

Students that complete an elective course will receive a grade on their transcript. Grades may be pass/fail or a letter grade, with the course instructor determining the grading criteria. Elective courses can only use one grading modality (i.e., the instructor cannot grade some students on a P/F basis and other students on a letter-graded basis). There is no credit associated for auditing a course. Credit hours acquired during the completion of elective courses will add to the cumulative units in the Program. Failing grades may/may not affect the student’s cumulative GPA, depending on whether the elective was given as a P/F or letter-graded course.

General Admittance Criteria

Didactic Electives

The goal of didactic electives, which include hybrid or modular courses, is to increase student knowledge and experience with regard to any optometric topic area desired by the student. Didactic electives would be present in a variety of formats including, but not limited to, smaller group interactive on-campus seminars, off-campus seminars/activities, and patient observations/ interactions. These can occur at any time in the curriculum, but with some expectation that the most effective times may, at present, be during summer quarters and during 3rd year Spring quarter.

Grading: Pass/Fail or letter grade at the discretion of the instructor
Units: 0.5-3.0
Class Size: 5-25
Prerequisites: Established by the instructor

Clinical Electives

The goal of clinical electives is to increase direct patient contact hours in a clinical topic area desired by the student. Clinical electives would consist of directing a previously non-self-directed ½ day or full day to a specified (pre-determined by preference, application, and administrative approval) ½ day or full day during the normal 4th year UEC rotation period where the intern would work in a service(s) of particular interest to that student. Additionally, a clinical elective would also take the form of an additional on-campus/UEC rotation by a 4th year student where that 2nd on-campus rotation would emphasize direct patient care in a particular clinical service(s). Clinical work can consist of already established intern clinic assignments as well as direct clinical assignments with on- or off-campus residents and/or faculty members. The potential assignments will be limited based on faculty/resident/patient availability and may ultimately be determined by the Associate Dean for Clinics in conjunction with the Dean of Optometry.

Grading: Pass/Fail
Units: 1.0-12.0
Class Size: 1-2
Prerequisites: Established by the instructor

Research Electives

The goal of research electives is to immerse students in a rich, mentored research environment and provide an opportunity to fully engage in the research process, from writing the proposal to collecting the data to disseminating research results. To find a faculty mentor and information regarding the type of research being conducted by faculty and their research areas or areas of specialization visit our website at

Elective Course Drop and Withdraw Policy

Due to the nature of the curriculum, students do not have the option of dropping or withdrawing from courses in the required curriculum. Students may, with special permission, drop or withdraw from an elective course determined by program policy. Please note, COP does not allow students to withdraw from elective coursework because they are a degree requirement.

The Program will alert its students of the electives offered and will notify the University Registrar of the elective courses and student enrollment. Once the Registrar has received notice from the Program, the student is considered enrolled in the course, regardless of when the course starts. If the student wishes to drop the course, the student is required to contact the instructor and obtain the necessary approval. Program policies will determine if the student will be allowed to drop the elective course and will designate if the drop is permitted and if it is to be recorded as a “drop” or “withdraw.”

A “drop” means the student is no longer enrolled in the course and there is no indication of registration on the student’s transcript. A “withdraw” means the student is no longer enrolled in the course; however, the course is on the student’s transcript and a “W” is noted in place of a grade, indicating the student withdrew from the course. This does not affect a student’s GPA.

Per University policy, no student may drop an elective course after the 2nd week in the quarter and no student may withdraw from the course after the 10th week in the quarter, unless the student is withdrawing from the University.

Functional Standards for Didactic Education

To provide guidance to those considering optometry as a profession, the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) has established functional guidelines for optometric education. The ability to meet these guidelines, along with other criteria established by individual optometric institutions, is necessary for graduation from an optometric professional degree program. Note that there may be additional criteria established by State, Provincial, or Federal regulators for licensure as an optometrist.

One of the missions of each school and college of optometry is to produce graduates fully qualified to provide quality comprehensive eye care services to the public. To fulfill this mission, each institution must ensure that students demonstrate satisfactory knowledge and skill in the provision of optometric care. Admission committees, therefore, consider a candidate’s capacity to function effectively in the academic and clinical environments, as well as a candidate’s academic qualifications and personal attributes.

The functional guidelines in optometric education require that the candidate/student possess appropriate abilities in the following areas:

  1. observation
  2. communication
  3. sensory and motor coordination
  4. intellectual: conceptual, integrative, and quantitative abilities and
  5. behavioral and social attributes.

Each of these areas is described in this document. Applicants are encouraged to connect with the individual institutions’ accessibility services offices to learn about the process for requesting accommodations at each institution.

1. Observation Abilities

The student must be able to acquire a defined level of required knowledge as presented through lectures, laboratories, demonstrations, patient interaction, and self-study. Acquiring this body of information necessitates the functional use of visual, auditory, and somatic sensation enhanced by the functional use of other sensory modalities. Examples of these observational skills in which accurate information needs to be extracted in an efficient manner include:

  1. Audio/Visual:
    • Reading and interpreting information from presentations, papers, slides, video and live demonstrations.
    • Discriminating numbers, images and patterns associated with diagnostic tests and instruments, including microscopic images of tissue in order to discern three-dimensional relationships, depth and color changes.
  2. Tactile Abilities:
    • Palpating the eye and related areas to determine the integrity of the underlying structures.

2. Communication Abilities

The student must be able to communicate effectively, efficiently and sensitively with patients and their families, peers, staff, instructors and other members of the health care team. The student must be able to demonstrate established communication skills using traditional and alternative means. Examples of required communications skills include:

  • Relating effectively and sensitively to patients, conveying compassion and empathy
  • Perceiving verbal and non-verbal communication such as sadness, worry, agitation and lack of comprehension from patients
  • Eliciting information from patients and observing changes in mood and activity
  • Communicating quickly, effectively and efficiently in English in person and in writing with patients and other members of the health care team
  • Reading and recording observations, test results and management plans accurately, in addition to completing assignments, patient records and correspondence accurately and in a timely manner

3. Sensory and Motor Coordination Abilities

The student must possess the sensory and motor skills necessary to perform an eye examination, including emergency care. In general, this requires sufficient exteroception sense (touch, pain, temperature), proprioceptive sense (position, pressure, movement, stereognosis and vibratory) and fine motor function (significant coordination and manual dexterity using arms, wrists, hands and fingers).

Examples of skill required include but are not limited to:

  • Instillation of ocular pharmaceutical agents
  • Insertion, removal and manipulation of contact lenses
  • Assessment of blood pressure and pulse
  • Perform minor surgical procedures such as the removal of foreign objects from the cornea
  • Simultaneous manipulation of lenses, instruments and therapeutic agents and devices
  • Reasonable facility of movement
  • Injections into the eye, lids or limbs

4. Intellectual-Conceptual, Integrative, and Quantitative Abilities

Problem solving, a most critical skill, is essential for optometric students and must be performed quickly, especially in emergency situations. In order to be an effective problem solver, the student must be able to accurately and efficiently utilize such abilities as measurement, calculation, reasoning, analysis, judgment, investigation, memory, numerical recognition and synthesis. Examples of these abilities include being able to:

  • Determine appropriate questions to be asked and clinical tests to be performed
  • Identify and analyze significant findings from history, examination and other test data
  • Demonstrate good judgment and provide a reasonable assessment, diagnosis and management of patients
  • Identify and communicate the limits of one’s knowledge and skill

5. Behavioral and Social Attributes

The student must possess the necessary behavioral and social attributes for the study and practice of optometry. Examples of such attributes include:

  • Satisfactory emotional health required for full utilization of one’s intellectual ability
  • High ethical standards and integrity
  • An empathy with patients and concern for their welfare
  • Commitment to the optometric profession and its standards
  • Effective interpersonal relationships with patients, peers and instructors
  • Professional demeanor
  • Effective functioning under varying degrees of stress and workload
  • Adaptability to changing environments and uncertainties such as being considered an essential worker
  • Positive acceptance of suggestions and constructive criticism

Candidates with questions or concerns about how their own conditions or disabilities might affect their ability to meet these functional guidelines are encouraged to meet with an optometry institution counselor prior to submitting an application.

National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO) Examination

NBEO examinations are required by all State Boards in lieu of the written examinations for optometric licensure. MBKU students are eligible to take the Applied Basic Science examination (Part I; ABS) in March of their third year.  MBKU students are eligible to take the Patient Assessment and Management (Part II; PAM) in December of their fourth year.  The Patient Encounters and Performance Skills (Part III; PEPS) is offered at the National Center of Clinical Testing in Optometry in Charlotte, NC throughout the fourth year.  The Injection Skills Examination (ISE) is an elective skill that can be taken concurrently with Part III.  

All students who register for and take the NBEO examinations are required to request, on their NBEO application form, that scores be sent to Marshall B. Ketchum University.  All scores will be kept confidential and will only be used for conducting institutionally approved educational research. Such studies will only report statistical information and will not, in any way, identify any individuals.  Requests for exceptions to this policy should be submitted in writing to the Dean of Optometry.