Jessica L. Lucas, OD, FAAO / NSU To Expand Optometry Program

Northeastern State University officials have proposed the construction of a 101,500-square-foot complex for the Oklahoma College of Optometry to expand and upgrade teaching facilities and patient services.

The optometry training program opened on the NSU Tahlequah campus more than 40 years ago in the original W.W. Hastings Hospital built by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1936. The new facility – four years in the planning – will more than double the existing space.

The historic building is beautiful, but poses logistical, structural and technical challenges that limit instruction and patient care, said Dr. Nathan Lighthizer, associate dean for the college.

The new complex will feature state-of-the-art equipment and classroom technology, as well as a suite for refractive (vision correction) surgery currently not available in Tahlequah.

“The Oklahoma College of Optometry is known across the world as a leader in optometry when caring for disease and advanced procedures,” Lighthizer said. “We’ve got the reputation, we’ve got the education, we’ve got the patient care. This will give us the facility that matches that reputation.”

That reputation is what attracted Dr. Jessica Lucas to the college from Texas. Since graduating from NSUOCO in 2011, Lucas has practiced at Dean McGee Eye Institute in Oklahoma City.

“I’m very grateful for my education,” she said. “It laid the foundation for me to work at a very prestigious eye institute.”

The new college complex will give future optometry students an opportunity for a more diverse experience since there will be room to study more subspecialties, Lucas said.

“They already have a very good clinical education program, but this will add to the value,” she said.

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