DEDICATION: University of Pikeville President Dr. Burton Webb and others take part in a ribbon cutting, above, for the new Health Professions Education Building on Oct. 27. Below, former Kentucky Governor and former UPIKE President Paul. E. Patton welcomes keynote speaker Congressman Harold "Hal" Rogers.
Medical Leader│Photos by TEDDY PAYNTER


Teddy Paynter

PIKEVILLE — National and state leaders gathered on the University of Pikeville campus to dedicate Kentucky's only college of optometry on Oct. 27.


A ribbon cutting followed the ceremony which showcased UPIKE's Health Professions Education Building (HPEB).


"I can't say enough about the community and people throughout the region for their continued support of our great institution," UPIKE President Burton J. Webb, Ph.D., said.


The new facility has come with a hefty price tag of $72 million. Funding was made possible through a number of grants from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, Appalachian Regional Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Administration.


"When the University of Pikeville has called, Congressman Hal Rogers has answered," former Kentucky Governor and UPIKE President Paul E. Patton said.


"Just look around you today."


In addition to expanding eye care, the Kentucky College of Optometry (KYCO) will provide a much-needed boost to eastern Kentucky's economy in the amount of nearly $27 million over the next four years.


"The University of Pikeville would not be where it is today without the support of Congressman Rogers," Patton added.


Congressman Rogers told a crowd of nearly 700 people that UPIKE and the city of Pikeville were moving forward because of team work.


"You are all pulling in the right direction and making things happen for the good," he said. "This campus is an example of the collaborative spirit taking place here."


The new facility includes state-of-the-art classrooms, clinical education laboratories, basic science laboratories, primary care operatories and home to both KYCO and UPIKE's growing nursing program.


Karen Damron, PH.D., dean of the Elliott School of Nursing, said the HPEB will enable the program to bring in additional students.


"I can tell you today our nursing students are enjoying the new spaces," she said.


KYCO is currently preparing its inaugural class of 2020 and the class of 2021 for a broad scope of practice. Kentucky is one of only three states in the nation in which optometrists have the ability to perform laser and minor surgical procedures. 


"Today, Central Appalachia has the highest rates of preventable blindness in the nation," said Rogers. "So what does UPIKE do? They build a state-of-the-art facility with the very best equipment, cutting-edge technology and a first-class team."


Andrew Buzzelli, O.D., KYCO's founding dean says eye care is being done in the mountains that wasn't possible before now.


"What I am most proud of is that our faculty have already performed hundreds of eye exams, there is a pediatric eye clinic in Pikeville Medical Center that wasn't there and we are in three Federally Qualified Health Centers that are in numerous clinics."


The community was able to tour the new building following the ceremony.