Like most other US colleges and universities, UMSL chose to send our students home for distance learning in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. UMSL Optometry students have since finished their spring semester and have transitioned into either summer term or summer break. At this time our academic buildings remain closed, while our UMSL Patient Care Center reopened on June 1st. Despite campus closure, UMSL optometry students have continued to learn and grow by making adjustments throughout the pandemic.

After externships were completed through online clinical education, we held a virtual send-off in May for the Class of 2020.  An in-person graduation celebration is planned for September in order to honor this class and all of the hard work they put toward their degrees. 

The Class of 2021 finished their didactic curriculum online in May, allowing them to move on to their externships. Normally, these new fourth year students would have taken part one of their NBEO in March. With the pandemic, this has been postponed until August, so they are working extra hard during this time. 

Our Class of 2022 is in their summer semester. This semester the class is split between online classes and in-person clinics.   Their clinical experience began with the reopening of the Patient Care Center on June 1st. Now that our third years are back in clinic, they will be taking the official Clinical Privileging Exam to earn their white coat at the end of June. 

The Class of 2023 completed their spring semester online as well. These students have a summer break until August. All classes and lab sections, except the Clinical Optometry II lab portion, were continued online. Students have the option to complete the CO II lab portion over the summer either in the St. Louis area or during the fall semester. 

We are looking forward to welcoming the incoming class to campus in the fall. Our admissions committee and ambassadors finished up the admissions cycle this year with online interviews and virtual campus tours. 

While it was not ideal to move to an online structure for our clinic-based program, our students were able to overcome some of these challenges. They adopted different strategies, including setting up strict study schedules, video chatting with classmates outside of class, creating study tools virtually, and through the help of their dedicated professors. One student commented about our Dr. Erin Brooks: “Dr. Brooks was amazing, especially at creating schedules for all of our classes to help us stay organized, making Zoom lectures bearable, and by going above and beyond to make sure everybody was caught up with the material.” We are grateful to have such hardworking faculty and students in our program.

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