Each year, students in the SCC Ophthalmic Medical Assistant (OMA) program offer free glaucoma screenings during Glaucoma Awareness Month. Pictured are those who participated in the screenings: front row: Kaitland McKenzie, Chelsey Duckworth, Brianna Newton, Erica Lopez, Katelyn Vasquez, Corina Blackwell, Miriam Kunz, Alberta Purvis (program coordinator and associate professor); back row: Dr. Andrew Apple (from Carolina Eye Associates) Natalie Coe, Breanna Holden, Orlando Aponte, Nicole McRae, and Nicole Davis.
The OMA Program at Sandhills
The OMA program at SCC is one of the few programs that can be completed on one year and begins each May. Successful students graduate the following May.
“Practically every one of our graduates have been offered employment at the places where they participated in clinicals,” said Program Coordinator Alberta Purvis. “Our students can participate in clinicals in any location, they do not have to located in Moore County.
“Because we are the only college in this area of the state that offers such a program, the fact that they can take clinicals out of the immediate area is very helpful to those who come to us from out of the area. We have had students from far and wide graduate from the program and experience great success in the field.”
What the Program Teaches
The SCC OMA program teaches students how to perform ophthalmic procedures under the supervision of a licensed physician specializing in Ophthalmology. Course work includes lecture, laboratory, and clinical training in ocular measurements; ocular testing; lensometry; administering topical and oral medications; eye care; and caring for instruments.
Our graduates are employable in medical institutions, clinics and physician practices.
While attending Sandhills, students work under the supervision and direction of an ophthalmologist to perform ophthalmic clinical duties. In addition to studies, they complete 690 hours of clinical. During clinicals, they are trained to measure visual acuity, instill ocular medications, obtain ocular, medical, and family history, perform manifest refractometry, instruct patient regarding medications, tests, and procedures, coordinate patient flow, measure intraocular pressure by applanation tonometry, participate in telephone triage, measure pinhole acuity, and measure, compare, and test pupils.
Upon completion, SCC OMA graduates may be eligible for the Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA) certification level, which is the entry-level pathway for a career as a certified allied health professional in ophthalmology.
Leadership of the Program
Alberta Purvis is the Program Coordinator and lead instructor in the program. She served for many years as a staff trainer for Carolina Eye Associates and has also trained technicians who worked in nursing homes and optometric offices. She has lectured at many JCAHPO conferences.
Purvis, an LPN, became a Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA) in 1982 and Certified Ophthalmic Technician (COT) in 1983. In 1986, Purvis reached the highest level of certification passing the Certified Ophthalmic Medical Technologist (COMT) exam.
She was one of the first in the state of North Carolina to reach this level of certification and at that time, only 53 total in the entire country were certified at this level. Currently, 20 individuals hold the COMT in North Carolina alone.
Registering for the OMA Program
The OMA program begins on May 23. Those interested in this program are encouraged to contact Purvis at (910) 695-3937 (EYES) or firstname.lastname@example.org. New students can apply to the college online from sandhills.edu and apply for financial aid through fafsa.gov.