Updated: Feb 10, 2019
As a start-up, we are always trying to explore new opportunities to gain traction and growth as a company. Using OcuBlink as an educational tool was always part of our vision, so we were extremely excited when the School of Optometry & Vision Science (University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada) approached us to design an eye model that could be used to teach foreign body removal to optometry students.
The removal of a foreign body, such as a tiny piece of metal or wood, from the ocular surface is an important skill in an optometrist’s repertoire. It is therefore important for students to receive the appropriate training to develop the precise motor skills required to perform these techniques in a confident and competent manner.
Traditionally, students would practice the removals of foreign bodies on pigs’ eyes that have been inserted with metal filings. However, since these eyes are biological tissues, they cannot be stored for long periods of time. In addition, the disposal of these tissues, and disinfection process post-procedure for the tools used for the removal of the filings, must also follow rigorous procedures for biological hazards. For this reason, many students will not use their own equipment to practice. Also, dead eyes just smell bad.
The challenge for us was designing a model that had similar consistency to an actual eye, and then incorporating small particles on the surface of these eyeballs to best simulate foreign bodies. We also had to keep the costs of making them relatively low.
After a few months of development, we were able to successfully develop a method to incorporate steel metal particles onto the surface of an artificial eyeball. We delivered these eye models to approximately 90 third year optometry students during their first foreign body removal lab. In a survey conducted afterwards, over 70% of the students noted that our foreign body model met or exceeded their expectations, and considered it to be very useful to learn the general and proper execution of a foreign body procedure.
We are already working on the next iteration of our model, and are looking to use it as an educational tool for other optometry and ophthalmology schools.