Valley optometry students gain real life experience through virtual reality

GLENDALE, Ariz. (KSAZ) - Optometry students at Midwestern University in Glendale are getting real life experience thanks to virtual reality.

Dr. Alicia Feis says since incorporating the space-age looking "VR magic heads" into training, the results have been unparalleled.

"Student performance even when you're first starting to learn, they've learned to do hand manipulation all of the other stuff, so their technical skills before they ever work with a patient are hands down, 10 times maybe 100 times better," said Dr. Alicia Feis, O.D., Associate Dean at Arizona College of Optometry.

Only seven optometry schools in the U.S. have this type of technology, with Midwestern University in Glendale boasting one of the largest labs.

"When I was 13 in 8th grade I actually had an eye exam and my eye doctor was phenomenal she explained everything she was doing and I was like I could totally do this for the rest of my life," said Megan Horter, third year student doctor.

Megan adds having the VR magic heads to be able to look at the back of the eye makes identifying health complications like diabetes, hypertension, glaucoma and cancer much easier.

"It's a difficult skill, it normally takes us like 3-6 months and so having this any time we wanted just to get more practice in its honestly been a game changer," says Horter.

Kelsey Harragrty, also in her third year, says her father, a retired optometrist, is her inspiration, and having new technology like this only fuels her passion.

"I like the lifestyle that you get with optometry as far as balancing work and home and it's very interesting the eye tells you so many things about the rest of the body that you wouldn't know and 4 years of it and i'm still learning new things now," said Harrgrty.

Dr. Feis says even after years of experience in the field, she has enjoyed learning with the magic heads.

"I was even practicing with the students today because there's some stuff I've never done with VR so figuring out okay how would that be or how you move with a patient, you have the patient look up you have the patient look down and all of that stuff is with the technology," said Dr. Feis.