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President Colip reflects on ICO's 150-year legacy and its many years of service and commitment to the community.

This year, Illinois College of Optometry marks our 150th year of service. It is hard to imagine all the changes that have taken place since our founding in 1872. Yet, through it all, our commitment remains to our students, our patients, and advancing the profession of optometry.

Our roots run deep, and the history of Illinois College of Optometry finds itself permanently embedded in the history of the profession of optometry itself. Both ICO and Optometry have our foundations with Dr. Henry Olin (1872) and his vision to advance eye health care and ensure that future generations of providers would be prepared to carry on and advance the profession. With Dr. George McFatrich, the profession of optometry began to evolve into its own discipline. Many leaders of the profession have come from and through ICO and have been instrumental in developing and advancing the profession.

We have had the privilege of seeing generations across families join the ranks of our alumni. We are humbled and proud that the Illinois Eye Institute is home to generations of patients who have and continue to trust us to meet their eye health care needs. We have had the chance to see our mission advance throughout the country and the world as our alumni bring their ICO experience into their own practices and continue to innovate in patient care and the profession.

At ICO, we are honored that we have been able be a part of advancing the scope of optometric care. We have continued the charge of our founders to be thought leaders and to look for new ways to meet the needs of our students and patients as science and technology open up new ways of practice and to educate our students. Some things we have had the chance to study and implement over time. At other times, like the pandemic, we’ve had to learn and chart our course day by day and rely on every member of our ICO community to get the job done. Together, we have shown we can do things we never imagined, and we have grown stronger for it.

The pandemic has also taught us an important lesson that we can’t simply go back to how things were a few years ago. Things have changed; we all have changed. Instead, we seek to take the good that we have learned and bring that forward to inform how we can be most effective as clinicians and educators. In new and varied ways, technology has become a greater part of everyone’s lives and has allowed us to expand our reach and accessibility. None of that takes the place of hands-on, in person training, yet it expands the potential and possibility of helping to triage patients deciding if an issue warrants urgent care or the more effective sharing of information across providers by being able to meet virtually and discuss cases.

Toward that end, we felt strongly that our 150th Anniversary should be a time when we recommit to our Mission and update our strategic plan to carry ICO forward into this momentous new chapter. We took the opportunity to review our mission statement and ensure that it reflects what we believe and do at ICO:

The mission of Illinois College of Optometry is to develop highly qualified clinical optometrists through excellence in optometric education who will strive to ‘seek that all will receive optimal healthcare’.

The language is slightly different, but it’s important that we are clear that everything we do is ultimately directed to ensuring that optimal healthcare for those we serve is our end goal and the responsibility we have to our students, our patients and our profession.

Our focus remains on admitting highly qualified applicants and providing the state-of-the-art clinical and didactic education that will allow them to reach their fullest potential as clinical optometrists. Through our stewardship of resources and alignment of our focus to the fulfillment of our mission, we will continue to invest financial, human and physical resources that allow us to optimally support the advancement of our mission.

At ICO, we are fortunate to have a world class faculty, who are thought leaders and skilled clinicians, who have educated generations of students. Whether in the classroom, the clinic or the research labs, they strive to ensure that our students are prepared to meet the current and future needs of the profession. Their mentorship has inspired many to seek residencies and to join the faculty at ICO and to become leaders at other institutions. In doing so, they carry forward our mission to the next generation.

Supporting and surrounding our faculty is a dedicated staff who assist in the day-to-day operations and administration of both the College and IEI functions. Often behind the scenes, their work ensures that we recruit the best fits for our academic program and ensure that our students have the resources they need to be successful in their program, that patient schedules run smoothly within the IEI and that our physical campus resources are safe and serve to support and advance our mission.

Our patients, our neighbors in this community, have partnered with us for generations in creating world class doctors of optometry. We are privileged and honored to be a part of generations of their families and have their trust in providing for their vision care.

As we enter this 150th year of service, we have chosen three pillars to guide and ground us for the work ahead: Research and Education, Patient Care, and Service to our Community — these pillars guide our vision for excellence and bolster our commitment to vision.

Research and Education: We are investing in state-of-the art facilities, technology and programs for tomorrow’s optometrists to set ICO apart to be the leading optometric institution for science and discovery. This focuses on education, scholarly, and research activity.

Patient Care: We will continue to provide independent primary healthcare for the eye and to meet the ophthalmic needs of Chicago’s most vulnerable patient populations.

Serving to our Community: We commit to promoting a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion within ICO and the communities we serve.

At ICO we have much to be grateful for and much to be proud of as we enter into this 150th year of celebration. Yet our work is not done. Our past informs us and guides us as we continue to fulfill our mission in this time and place. Our work is not done. Together, we make the mission come alive each day. I invite you to take this opportunity to pause and reflect on what your ICO experience has meant to you and how you can contribute to advancing the mission of ICO.


Mark K. Colip, OD ’92



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Spring 2019 Editor's Note

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